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Minions Review

July 10, 2015 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
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Minions Review  

Directed By: Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda
Written By: Brian Lynch
Runtime: 91 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Pierre Coffin – The Minions
Sandra Bullock – Scarlet Overkill
Jon Hamm – Herb Overkill
Michael Keaton – Walter Nelson
Allison Janey – Madge Nelson
Steve Coogan – Professor Flux/Tower Guard
Geoffrey Rush – The Narrator
Jennifer Saunders – Queen Elizabeth II

The Minions, those odd yellow-colored, pill-shaped oddities of the Despicable Me franchise are definitive show stealers. After the release of Despicable Me, Universal Pictures found a veritable merchandising goldmine with the weird, yet lovable, creatures. One really should not fault Universal at all for milking the Minions train for all that it’s worth. It was not merely enough to produce a TV show starring the critters. They needed their very own spin-off film. Thus, the underlings of reformed super-villain Gru get to star in their very own picture, Minions.

The Despicable Me films are very fun, cute, enjoyable and, at times, adorable. They are far from my favorite animated films, but they work very well. I always enjoyed the sequences and gags involving the Minions characters, and I wondered where they came from. I figured the Minions were the result of some mad experiment by Gru gone wrong. Minions reveals the origins of the characters, and the answer is not quite as satisfying as originally thought. The Minions (all voiced by co-director Pierre Coffin) are a species that has existed on planet Earth since the dawn of life. The opening credit sequence shows them going from single-celled organisms to their current, bi-pedal forms, which they have had since the time of the dinosaurs. According to the Narrator (Rush), the Minions exist as a subservient race. They want an evil, despicable and powerful master to serve and to boss them around. Essentially, their ecological purpose is servitude. However, since the dawn of man, they have struggled to find a good master to keep and boss them around since they are clumsy and are always getting killed. Eventually, the Minions are driven into exile and form their own society in an underground arctic cave. As the years pass, the Minions flounder and wallow in sadness. Without an evil master to serve, what are the Minions to do? They simply can’t be their own bosses.

The brave and intrepid Kevin decides to go on a mission and leave the cave in order to find his tribe a new evil boss. Along for the ride are the innocent yet rambunctious Bob and the amateur musician Stuart. Eventually, the search across the globe brings them to New York. After stumbling onto a secret broadcast of the Villain Network, the Minion trio hitches a ride with a family of professional bank robbers to Villain Con in Orlando. Surely, they will find a new boss there. Ultimately, their prayers are answered in the cunning and formidable super villain Scarlet Overkill (Bullock). After unwittingly winning a contest to become her new henchmen, the Minions are roped into a plot to steal Queen Elizabeth II’s crown. Thus, Scarlet will become Queen of England, and all her childhood dreams will come true.

Honestly, I had some apprehension about the Minion characters getting their own film. I enjoy the characters, but I was hesitant to believe an actual movie starring the characters could actually work. To that end, Minions is not entirely successful. The movie, especially the second act, moves in a very disjointed and convoluted fashion. The plot constantly switches gears. It appears as if the movie was not just made for children with short attention spans, but actually made by adults with that same issue. Overall, Despicable Me had much tighter and effective writing. The Minions are amusing characters with their general weirdness, gibberish language and goofy behavior. However, they are not as compelling when trying to pull their own weight as the stars.

The biggest letdown of the film is that the Minions’ origin is a bit on the boring side. I thought it was a little more interesting when as an audience, you really do not know their origin. The movie’s biggest problem is that it really does not tell the story it wants to tell. By the end, the movie goes to a place you really wish it would have explored the whole time. It was by far the best and most entertaining sequence in the film. Leaving the theater, I kept thinking that if the whole movie had gone in that direction, the film probably would have been a lot better.

Acting and performance wise, none of the main voice cast really stands out. One would think Sandra Bullock getting to have some fun and playing animated super villain could be really fun and interesting, but her vocal performance never really takes off. Michael Keaton and Allison Janey don’t really have much to do as the husband and wife of a bank robbing family. They only have one notable scene and a handful of lines. Jon Hamm plays against type to a degree as Scarlet Overkill’s hipster husband, who makes all of her gear and weapons. The characterizations are slightly amusing, but the characters never become laugh-out-loud funny. I was simply hoping to get more out of Sandra Bullock voicing this type of character.

That said, I am probably not the target audience for this film. Children are clearly going to love and enjoy this film, and there is nothing wrong with that. While it is not as good as other installments in the franchise, it is very entertaining. The constant motion and antics of the Minions continually got a rise out of me, if not some outright chuckles. The movie has some fun and gorgeous settings, taking the Minions to New York City and London in 1968. The production team at Illumination made this a period story — probably one of the best aspects of the film. It definitely adds a fun and unique flavor to the setting that you do not often see with CG animated features. In addition, there is quite a bit of pop music in the spirit of the era, which is good because the Minions love to sing pop songs in their own unique language.

In terms of visuals and animation, this is one of the few times I was actually impressed with a modern 3D film. Directors Coffin and Balda did a tremendous job creating visuals and sequences that often jump out of the screen. The animation and designs actually had a nice sense of depth. Despite the rather exaggerated and simplistic designs of the characters and artwork in the film, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer amount of detail the animators packed into the movie. In terms of animation, the film is top notch. It definitely serves the heist-type sequences for the Minions, which re-capture some of the goofy, fun spirit that made the original Despicable Me a solid experience.

If you like the Despicable Me films, you will probably still like and enjoy Minions, especially if you have small children. It is an inferior film, but for the most part, it is still amusing and inoffensive.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Minions is not a great film, but that's OK in the long run. This is really a movie for the kids who love the Minion creatures and go crazy over them. Adults who see the film with their kids will probably find some things to enjoy about it. However, it is not as clever as some of the better animated films from DreamWorks Animation, Pixar, Walt Disney Studios, or for that matter, Illumination Entertainment. I would advise you stay after the credits for this one too.

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Minions, Jeffrey Harris