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Minions (2015)

| July 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

You just have to smile when you see The Minions. They’re cute, happy, jolly little fellas with a babbling speech pattern, a drive born of basic instinct, and a talent for being loyal to a fault. They’re like happy-go-lucky little boys who are mischievous but not malicious despite their lot in life. As supporting characters in any of these big budget animated series go, they are the most welcomed in my book right up there with Scrat, and now they have their own movie. Does it work? Yes. It’s adorable, cute and funny. Is it original? No, but that’s not the point.

The only point of comparison with The Minions that I can think of is last year’s Penguins of Madagascar, another off-shoot of a popular animated series. The difference is that The Penguins come with a particular skill set, a drive toward absolutely flawless organization that made their adventure somewhat predictable, i.e. they can take care of themselves. The Minions aren’t quite that smart. Their forward momentum is more random leaving them more vulnerable and, for the viewer, more interesting.

Minions, naturally, is an origin story. It’s not only set before their adventures in Despicable Me it follows The Minions from the dawn of history (with an opening narration by Geoffrey Rush) where we meet them at the amoeba stage (they had goggles before they had limbs) and follow them up through the Jurassic period, the Neolithic period, Ancient Egypt, 19th century Europe, and on up to the post modern era. Unlike their evolutionary brothers, The Minions aren’t driven by a need for superiority but by the desire to serve a master, particularly an evil one. The trouble is, they have a knack for mischief which often ends with their chosen master meeting a grisly fate.  The Minions’ evolution is kind of a head-scratcher because apparently they’re all male and they seem to live forever as evidence by the fact that we follow our heroes from the beginning of time up through the late 1960s.

Either way, Minions follows their pursuit of an evil employer through history; working for everyone from a T-Rex to The Pharaohs to a Count Dracula (the best gags in the movie are spoiled in the trailer). Desiring to end their search, three Minions named Kevin, Stuart and Bob head out into the world to find a suitable employer. But it’s not until they arrive in London circa 1968 that their search comes to a head. Boosted by the information about a century’s old annual convention of supervillians, the boys find work with a superstar villain called Scarlett Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock) who wants to steal Queen Elizabeth’s crown, thereby becoming Queen of England. I’m pretty sure that’s not how that works, but okay.

The rest of the plot I can’t really describe because there isn’t a lot of plot from there on. Most of the movie is made up of a series of cute and funny gags as the boys bumble around a 1960s London that has been taken over by the pop culture of Warhol and The Beatles. It’s actually a lot of fun, and the soundtrack is amazing. One of the best gags involves Kevin, Stuart and Bob accidentally stumbling upon Abbey Road just at the moment that four lads from Liverpool are crossing the street.

What doesn’t work so well is the story. It’s bulky and much of it deals with the Minions trying to defeat a big, bad enemy leading to one of those long tired old Battle-in-the-Streets that we’ve seen a million times before. In the world of animation it’s so much fun when the filmmakers can find a way to spin their characters into other worlds, other dimensions and get away from formula. Look at two recent animated pictures Inside-Out and The LEGO Movie. Both involved a climax that worked because it came out of the story, not just because the story needed an ending. Why not have the Minions chase their foe through time, or around the globe, or to different planets, or to different dimensions, or different multi-verses? Or even different movie-universes? The possibilities are endless.

Actually Minions didn’t really need a story. It might have worked just as well dealing with the Minions on their historical journey. I argued last year that Penguins of Madagascar might have worked just as well as a sort of ersatz nature documentary, freeing it from the confines of a standard story. I maintain that argument here. Just let the movie be a series of funny sight gags with only a hint of a plot.

Still despite those issue Minions is a fun time. I’m happy that the studio decided to give The Minions their own movie instead of the predictable route of going right into Despicable Me 3 (stay tuned). The kids will enjoy this movie because of The Minions, and the parents will enjoy it because of all the nods to the 1960s. I wouldn’t recommend seeing this before seeing Inside Out, but when you do you’ll have a good time.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2015) View IMDB Filed in: Animated, Kids