Little, yellow, the same
The little yellow things from Despicable Me get their own film with Minions, and their banana 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. They’ve always wanted to be henchman, and they are attracted to bad guys, so we see a lot of their past, unlucky bosses (Dracula, T. Rex, Napoleon, etc.) They wind up settling north 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, Florida, where they seek out the world’s greatest villain, Scarlet Overkill (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 in 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. Trying to figure out what they’re saying all the time gets a little exhausting. And 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, many adult eyes will have glazed over. The opening sequences that included the likes of Nixon and things that older people would know about prove to be a tease. Minions is strictly a kiddie affair for most of its running time.
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 parents crazy with for the next few months. Parents, start gearing up to buy the large variety of Minions toys sure to be assaulting Toys "R" Us.
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.
I won’t spoil any surprises, but the film does feature a big cameo. Actually, you can probably guess who it is. Want me to tell you? Maybe I will tell you. Nah, screw it. I won’t tell you.
As for the future of the Despicable Me series, a third film featuring Carell’s Gru is slated for 2017. However, it must be said that given the huge box office take of Minions in its opening weekend, the little yellow guys have more drawing power than the bald, Uncle Fester-looking guy.