The Minions are coming! The Minions are coming!
You’d have to be a real grouch to not love the Minions! Sure the bright yellow, bean-shaped, goggle-wearing rascals may have only been the comic relief in the adorable Despicable Me movies, but to many moviegoers, including this one, they were the easily the best part of the show. And why wouldn’t they be? With their googly eyes, gobbledygook language, sunny disposition, goofy mischievousness and endearing ineptitude, these squishy suckers were practically manufactured for one reason and one reason only: To make kids (and adults) fall in love with them.
Obviously sensing a golden opportunity to mine millions out of their minions, the folks at Universal have promptly upgraded the yellow banana beans to leading men status for the aptly titled Minions. But some things are better off served as sides. And that’s the case with the minions too. Although the movie, which was co-directed by Pierre Coffin & Kyle Balda and written by Brian Lynch, is sporadically witty, looks gorgeous and never less than amusing, it becomes evident halfway through that there’s only so much you can mine out of these characters – especially with the story at hand.
Minions begins promisingly enough. In a dynamite opening montage, narrated by Geoffrey Rush, Coffin and Balda take us through the history of how the minions have spent their entire existence. Always on the lookout for the strongest and most evil master to serve, the minions always come up short, either inadvertently killing their leaders or giving them atrocious advice. From the Tyrannosaurus Rex to Cro-Magnon man to the Egyptians to vampires to even Napoleon, the minions have served them all. Eventually, after driving one nasty emperor to declare war on them, they flee to the Arctic Circle where they learn to live on their own.
Since a full length feature demands a plot, we get one that centers on a trio of minions – Kevin, Stuart and Bob – and their mission to venture out of the Arctic Circle and into the world to find a villain to serve. Their first stop is 1968 New York City, a location that’s primarily used as a setting for predictable pop culture references and expensive Beatles songs – undoubtedly targeted towards adults in the audience. This leads to a road-trip to Orlando to Villain-Con, a SDCC-like super convention where all the world’s latest and greatest advancements in villainy are showcased.
While the con itself is a delightful assortment of colorful characters and sight gags, the bulk of the sequence is wasted on the minions randomly becoming the henchmen of Scarlett Overkill – the world’s first female super-villain. Voiced with devilish glee by Sandra Bullock, Scarlett ships the minions off to her home in England where she lives with her madcap inventor husband Herb (Jon Hamm, proving he’s as good with voice acting as he is with drama and comedy), before embedding them into her plot to steal the crown jewels and become the Queen of England.
And that’s about it, really. The rest of the picture comprises of a collection of slapstick and sight gags that feel like they were stitched together on the fly by filmmakers who have clearly run out of ideas. Some of the jokes land well – I laughed out loud a couple of times – but for the most part, it’s a litany of half-hearted jokes aimed at 5-year-olds in the audience. And in the end that’s all that matters. This isn’t a movie like the brilliant Inside Out where both adults and children can find something to love in equal measure. This is primarily one for the really little ones. The biggest pleasure an adult can get from watching a movie like Minions is watching their child laugh and have a good time. And laugh they will! But if you’re not in that position, you’ll find yourself looking at your watch again and again, wishing you had spent your time on Inside Out again instead.
Director: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda
Screenwriter: Brian Lynch
Cast: (voices of) Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock, John Hamm, Geoffrey Rush, Jennifer Saunders
Producer: Janet Healy, Christopher Meledandri
Editor: Claire Dodgson
Music: Heitor Pereira
Running time: 91 minutes
Companies: Universal Pictures, Illumination Entertainment
Rating: PG (for action and rude humor)