There is such a thing as shamelessly milking a profitable idea for all its worth. There is also such a thing as a guilty pleasure. These two ideas collided for me in “Minions”. Maybe I’m being a bit unfair. Perhaps these mischievous yellow pills haven’t reached the point of being “shamelessly milked”. But there is no doubt Universal Pictures sees profit in these silly little creatures. There is also no doubt that I have fallen victim to their charm. I find them funny. They are a guilty pleasure of mine. But do they have enough to carry a feature film on their own?
We first saw the minions on the big screen in 2010’s “Despicable Me”. A sequel followed and now they have their own spinoff. “Minions” starts off with a brilliant telling of the creatures’ history narrated by Geoffrey Rush. We learn the minions have been around since the prehistoric times and they exist only to serve villainous masters. Their masters have included cavemen, Dracula, and Napoleon just to name a few. The problem is their waggish incompetence constantly lead to the deaths of their masters and eventually drives them to start a new life in solitude. This early sequence is easily the film’s funniest. From there things get pretty inconsistent.
Many years pass and the minions fall into a deep state of depression. A determined minion named Kevin realizes the only way for them to survive is to find a new villain to serve. Along with minion pals Bob and Stuart, Kevin sets put to find a new master and save his kind. It’s a truly noble task. Their quest takes them around the world until they eventually land a job with the world’s most famous villain Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock). She and her eccentric husband Herb (Jon Hamm) head to London where their new minions are to pull of the grandest heist of them all.
While the opening is easily the funniest part, there are still laughs sprinkled throughout the rest of the film. This is mainly because I find the minions inherently funny. They offer several funny fish-out-of-water moments, lots of good-hearted ineptitude, and plenty of quirky sight gags. But the question remains – are they capable of carrying a full movie? “Minions” makes it hard to say yes.
Minion humor can be really funny, but this film shows they need other good characters to work with. Unfortunately they don’t get them. There isn’t a single non-minion character who is the slightest bit interesting or entertaining. Bullock’s Scarlett isn’t funny and much of her dialogue consists of long, drawn out ramblings. Herb is a throwaway character who offers nothing other his weird appearance. Most of the other non-minions basically run around, yell a lot, and act crazy.
So that leaves the minions to their own devices and neither they nor Brian Lynch’s script has enough to carry the film. While funny in doses, the normal minion routine runs its course. Eventually we need more than their chirpy, unintelligible chatter and their cute and lovable incompetence. Eventually we need more than a seemingly endless stream of slapstick. But the movie does fall into this rut and the smattering of good gags aren’t enough to keep it afloat.
The youngster target audience will probably love every minute of “Minions”. I was with them to a point, but once the story abandoned the quest to find a master it bogged down and the humor grew inconsistent. I guess it makes sense. In the “Despicable Me” films minions exist to serve and support other characters. Maybe that’s why they were so good in those films but struggle here. Or maybe it’s the script that fails them and leaves the minions to fend for themselves. Whatever the case, these are still funny creatures and we see it in “Minions”. They just deserve better characters to work with especially if you’re making them the centerpiece of a feature length film.
VERDICT – 3 STARS