by Philip Price
“Minions,” while inherently funny is wholly insignificant and unnecessary. For parents, “Minions” will be ol’ reliable, for children who enjoyed the “Despicable Me” films it will be what they've been waiting for, but in terms of the actual quality of the product it couldn't be more vanilla sans for the ridiculous amounts of innuendo and subtext these guys are able to get away with due to literally half of the dialogue in the film being unintelligible. At the very least, I guess this flick might open up the idea to children that watching foreign films can't be all that bad as with those you are at least given subtitles whereas with “Minions” one has to count on interpretation of tone and inflection to elicit the intended comedy. The thing is though, and this became apparent in the “Despicable Me sequel,” is that it seems the folks behind these colorful fun fests are forgetting the minions are not only inherently funny, but inherently sidekicks despite the fact this film, their own feature, is about them seeking out a boss to serve. If the minions only goal in life is to function purely as sidekicks it only seems fitting they would remain in that role in any movie they might appear in, but when a movie only happens because the first was a surprise hit and the multiple sequels and spin-offs are concocted more because the iron is hot rather than there being any actual ideas of value you're going to run into such dilemmas. When the small Illumination Entertainment company scored a $540 million hit with the original film and its sequel notched nearly a billion worldwide three years later, you better believe they were going to milk this now-franchise for all it's worth. The minions instantly became cultural mainstays and so I understand why a feature of their own was ultimately inevitable, but it doesn't mean it makes any more sense. Get what I'm saying? They are sidekicks, they are good in small portions, but a little bit of these little yellow creatures goes a long way and in giving them a feature length film things have simply gone overboard as the weight of an entire narrative on the back of a character created purely for comic relief is too much for them to carry.
Starting as single-celled yellow organisms, the opening credits sequence of Minions show how the creatures evolve through the ages, serving a never-ending string of the most evil masters including the T-Rex, Dracula and Napoleon himself. The trouble comes when they are consistently unsuccessful at keeping these masters alive. These untimely demises for each of their would-be leaders are due, of course, to the incompetency of the minions and yet they continue on, a herd unto themselves until there is no one left to serve. The minions end up building a small community in the caverns of a snow-covered tundra before eventually falling into something of a deep depression out of a need for a villain to call their own. However, there is one minion who goes by the name Kevin and he has a plan, a plan to revitalize the minion community and find them a new master to work for. Alongside fellow minions Stuart, who has the mentality of a young rebel, and the lovable little Bob the three of them set out into the unknown to find their next evil villain. Taking the audience from New York to Orlando then all the way to England, the trio embark on a journey that ultimately leads them to Villain-Con where they are introduced to Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), the world's first-ever female super-villain, in Hall H of course. After being enlisted by Overkill to be her new henchmen she reveals the minions true purpose by using them to carry out her plan to steal Queen Elizabeth's crown. With the help of her husband’s (John Hamm) weapons the minions infiltrate Buckingham palace and clumsily accomplish Overkill's mission much to her chagrin which leads to all-out war and the introduction of someone truly despicable.
I've said it before and this will no doubt be the last time, but I've always felt the spin-off is little more than a cheap way to over-extend something that worked unexpectedly and is now being mined to death (though “Creed” will hopefully prove me wrong later this year). With the third “Despicable Me” film not coming out until 2017 though, what was Illumination to do in the interim other than give the money-making minions their own movie? The truth though, is that I (like many others, apparently) enjoy the minions and their shenanigans and there are definitely parts in this flick that I laughed at more than a little bit, but by the last act of this rather brief 80-minute movie I was already worn out and ready to move on. The film suffers from not really having a strong protagonist and the absence of Steve Carell as Gru and the dynamic he has with his adopted daughters is surely felt, but this is meant to serve as an origin story for the minions and in that regard one could say it does the best with what it has to work with. Directors Kyle Balda (“The Lorax”) and Pierre Coffin (‘Despicable Me 1 & 2’ and the voice of all the minions) have taken us back to 1968 (which is something of an inspired choice as the films soundtrack doesn't try to repeat the Pharrell formula) where they have chosen to explore the lore of these Igor-inspired characters on a more basic level. It is credited to natural instinct that they must live in the service of villainy, but as our three main minions make their way through the big cities in search of someone worthy of their assumed talent it's interesting to note their passion and intended loyalty — even if much of those qualities are misconstrued thanks to their dialect. What might have been more interesting is a movie about the linguistics of the minions, which may have produced just as many laughs, but given the target audience is kids and not adults looking for the suggestive overtones present in these guys language I see no harm in what has been delivered here.
Like I said, I've always been cautious to the idea of spin-offs or any piece of entertainment that feels specifically manufactured for the sole purpose of exploitation and profit, but despite “Minions” feeling little more than average and even grating in parts as we near its conclusion, it is what it is. It will more than please its target audience who've already had their fill of stimulation through entertainment this summer with “Inside Out” and are looking for little more than a pleasant distraction. The minions brand will only expand with this rather hollow picture, but the laughs are frequent and random enough to keep both their reputation and popularity in check; at least until Gru comes around to finish his trilogy.