Rise of Gru is the fifth film in the Despicable Me/Minions franchise, following three Despicable Me’s and the first prequel Minions. The new installment tells us how Gru went from a young boy with evil ambitions to the supervillain fans know and love. In addition to Gru and the anarchic energy ball Minions, the film introduces the supervillain collective the Vicious 6. The star-studded voice cast includes series vets Steve Carell, Pierre Coffin, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Steve Coogan, and Will Arnett along with new-to-the-Minion-verse Taraji P. Henson, Michelle Yeoh, RZA, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lucy Lawless, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, and Alan Arkin. At 66% on Rotten Tomatoes, reviews for the film put it in the middle of the pack for the series.
Box-office wise, the Universal/Illumination series went from the strong $543 million global gross of the original to the exceptional $971 million grossing sequel to the billion busting prequel ($1.159 billion) and three-quel ($1.035 billion). This is all while peaking domestically on the second film ($368 million), though the latest installment Despicable Me 3 ($265 million) was still above the original ($252 million). For Rise of Gru, even matching the series low of the original would make it the biggest animated film since the start of the pandemic.
In the past year we’ve seen two films top $1 billion globally and a handful of others get in the high nine-figures, but animation has been absent from this success. The genre has yet to return to pre-pandemic highs, and while most of the big titles this summer have over-performed expectations, the one to under-perform was Lightyear. Whether the issue was specific to the Pixar film or a sign of a depressed market for animated films is hard to say. The biggest animated success of the past two years was Sing 2 with $163 million domestic and $407 million worldwide (down from $270 million domestic and $634 million worldwide on the first film). Compare this to 2019, with three animated films above $300 million domestic and $1 billion worldwide (Frozen II, Toy Story 4, and The Lion King). Rise of Gru could be the film to bring the genre back, if not to the $1+ billion level then at least to the $500+ million level, and $200+ million domestically.
Recent weeks have mostly had something for everyone, from action, adventure, animation, and musical extravaganzas, but romance has been conspicuously missing. Filling that void is Mr. Malcolm's List from Bleecker Street. The Jane Austen-inspired British period piece tells the story of Selina (Freida Pinto) who is recruited for purposes of revenge by her best friend Julia (Zawe Ashton) to pose as an eligible bachelorette for the titular Mr. Malcolm (Sope Dirisu) who has a list of hard to meet demands for his prospective match, demands that Julia could not meet. The plan is for Selina to give Mr. Malcolm a taste of his own medicine by rejecting him based on her own lofty standards, but love has plans of its own. The early 19th century set rom-com is well reviewed (79% on Rotten Tomatoes) and could be a modestly successful bit of counter-programming for audiences who feel left out from recent offerings.
Amongst the holdovers, eyes are on Elvis after its overperforming opening weekend to see if it can hold well enough to potentially recoup its $85 million budget. More excitingly, though, is the question of just how high Top Gun: Maverick can fly. Having crossed two milestones last weekend, $500 million domestic and $1 billion worldwide, it will any day now pass the $534 million gross of The Lion King (2019) to become the 12th biggest domestic grosser ever. It holds the best ever fourth and fifth wide weekends for a non-James Cameron movie, a record it will likely hold for its sixth weekend if it can stay above $17.1 million (which seems likely, considering falling below would give the film its biggest drop yet). The $600 million milestone is in its crosshairs, and it wouldn’t be a surprise for the Tom Cruise film to hit the top ten for all time (the tenth slot is currently held by Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi with $620 million).