Blinded by the bright cuteness of a merely decent kid flick
The little yellow things from Despicable Me get their own computer-animated film with Minions, and their shtick is fun for a while, but not enough to sustain an entire feature film.
Things start funny enough with a brief history of the Minions since the beginning of time. As their name implies, they’ve always wanted to be henchman, and they are attracted to bad guys, so we see a lot of their previous unlucky bosses (Dracula, T. Rex, Napoleon, etc.). The Minions wind up settling north and worshipping the Abominable Snowman when three of them (Stuart, Kevin and Bob) decide to head out on a journey to look for a new master.
Their travels take them to New York in 1968 (the year of my birth and arguably one of the worst years in American history). The pop-culture references when they first arrive, including a fantastic Richard Nixon billboard and The Dating Game, are well done. The movie has a cool MAD Magazine vibe going for it in its first half.
Things start going off the rails a little bit when the trio leave New York for Orlando, Fla., where they seek out the world’s greatest villainesse, Scarlett Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock) at something akin to Comic Con for villains. She has some cockamamie scheme for the Minions to steal the Queen of England’s crown. So they all travel to England, where things get even wackier.
Perhaps the best thing about the movie is the Queen (Jennifer Saunders), portrayed as a happy-go-lucky goofball who remains entirely good natured even when she loses her crown and the throne to Overkill due to a technicality. In fact, the film really lights up when the Queen is in the room, and it could’ve used more of her.
As for the Minions themselves, they get a little grating after the first 45 minutes. The banana joke is funny for the first seven times or so, but it grows a little tired around the 1,756th time it’s told. They speak that strange Minions gibberish language and, that too, is funny for a little while, but trying to figure out what they are saying all of the time gets a little exhausting. As for when I could figure out what they were sort of saying, well, it just wasn’t that funny.
By the time one of the Minions grows to the size of King Kong and terrorizes London, I’m thinking many adult eyes have glazed over. Other than a few teases, Minions is strictly a kiddie affair for most of its running time.
Bullock’s super villain isn’t all that interesting and neither is her husband (voiced by Jon Hamm). Michael Keaton and Allison Janney take part in one of the film’s more amusing sequences, voicing parents who take their children on armed robberies.
The film does have a little, sick fun with the back history of the Minions. Most of their masters before Gru (Steve Carell’s character in Despicable Me) are accidentally killed. They manage to get a caveman eaten by a big bear, they blow up Dracula, they crush the Abominable Snowman, etc. Seeing powerful and nefarious male figures as no match for the Minions is good for a laugh or two.
And the screening I saw had plenty of kids guffawing, and that’s really what this thing is supposed to do, right? Make kids laugh and give them something to drive their folks crazy with until school starts up. And parents, start gearing up to buy a lot of yellow over the next few months.