– Summary –
Director : Kyle Balda + Pierre Coffin
Year Of Release : 2015
Principal Cast : Voices of Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock, John Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Geoffrey Rush, Steve Carrel.
Approx Running Time : 91 Minutes
Synopsis: Minions Stuart, Kevin and Bob are recruited by Scarlett Overkill, a super-villain who, alongside her inventor husband Herb, hatches a plot to take over the world.
Among the many Hollywood known quantities – other than working with children and animals, never saying “I’ll be right back” in a film, or having sex during a horror movie – is that the supporting characters, especially popular ones, can never hold up their own starring roles in feature movies. The Despicable Me films have had gargantuan success for Dreamworks, mostly thanks to the bumbling, asinine antics of the yellow Tic-Tac shaped Minions, around which this entire movie revolves. Whereas their use in the Despicable films was left to slapstick background action and minor, inconsequential comedic stylings, in Minions they’re front and center, voiced by the babbling co-director, Pierre Coffin, once again. I’m among the minority who’ve found the minion’s antics to be laboriously semi-funny, certainly not at the level other have absorbed their non-sequitur humor and logic-free physicality, so a feature film starring the tiny yellow nincompoops wasn’t hugely appealing.
Thankfully, Minions is a far better film than I anticipated; although, having said that, it’s still hugely average. I laughed more than a few times, which was nice, and the story wasn’t a total mish-mash of ideas designed simply to sell more minion toys (although the whole film has been marketed to doing just that), so I guess in that respect Minions did what it needed to to keep me entertained. The film opens with a potted history of the minions, a clan of yellow creatures who seek out the most evil beings they can to serve as their masters. Dinosaurs and abominable snowmen come in for the minion treatment, before a trio of the tic-tac dunderheads, Kevin, Stuart and Bob, sojourn to America to locate a new, human master. They arrive at Orlando, Flordia, at Villain Con (a riff on San Diego’s Comic Con) where they encounter legendary female supervillain, Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), and her husband Herb (Jon Hamm), who plan to steal the Queen’s Crown Jewels from the Tower Of London.
If Minions did anything, it made me miss Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean series more than ever. The minions are the American equivalent of Atkinson’s gibberish-speaking buffoon, only more minuscule and numerous. But there’s no escaping the “mis-adventures” the minions have is reminiscent of Mr Bean’s blundering style of humor, accidentally happening on momentous moments of history through sheer luck – Minions runs the gamut of splendidly funny and distinctly American (the film is set primarily in England, though) and wholly uneven. The film fits into Despicable Me’s aesthetic easily, although where the Steve Carrel-starring films had heart and emotional heft buried within the “evilness” of Gru’s plans, Minions utterly lacks it. Instead, we’re left with a smorgasbord of jokes and whiplash-inducing plot twists and turns, as our trio of “heroes” manage to accomplish whatever they need, while remaining completely clueless.
Typically with kind of film, the voice cast deliver solid work, particularly Sandra Bullock as lead “villain” Scarlet Overkill, a tall-haired vanity project who sees herself as the world’s ultimate villain. Bullock gives the role real pizazz, and at times sounds so completely unlike her normal self I had to double-check the cast roster to make sure it wasn’t somebody else. Mad Men star Jon Hamm is funny as Scarlet’s husband Herb, while Michael Keaton and Allison Janney show up briefly as the head of a family driving cross-country to Orlando early in the film. Pierre Coffin’s work as the titular minions is, much like Despicable Me’s material, largely funny in that juvenile, jabber-jaw kind of way that kids love (personally, I’m disinclined to approve of its overuse, and it’s certainly overused here), as he voices not three or four, but all the minions we see on the screen. Kids will lap it up, but adults might find it a bit tiresome after the first half hour. Also of note, Aussie Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush narrates the film, his dulcet tones having a slight ring of irony about them.
The problem with Minions is that it’s too much of a good thing – at least if you love the minions, that is. Whereas they nestled into the Despicable movies as legitimate comic relief, here they take center stage and as characters they’re not up to the task. The film’s reliance on human characters (who aren’t Gru, I might add) limits our attachment to whatever plans or adventures they embark on, and as such, Minions feels like a 10-minute short film stretched waaay too long, with too little foundation beneath the scatter-gun approach to laughs. Unless you’re into unintelligible babble by way of actual conversation, in which case, you’re in for a treat. Me? Not so much.