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
Agree with your sentiments. Bullock sounded like she literally phoned in her performance. But I also find the Minions inherently funny, and I think its a real testament to the animation that they can be speaking gibberish yet for the most part we can understand them!
Great write up, I still need to see Despicable Me 2, dunno if its any good. I loved the first one!
I too loved the first Despicable Me. The second one wasn’t nearly as good but it had its moments.
Thanks for the kind words!
No worries mate! I’ll lower my expectations accordingly, as I loved Despicable Me but have been cautious about the second one.
That’s a good approach.
Great review 🙂 I’m not such a huge fan of the idea of a standalone minion movie, but I LOVED Despicable Me 🙂
That first film was fantastic? Did you ever see the second? I found it to be disappointing but the minions were still great. This film just doesn’t have enough for the minions to work around. It still has funny moments but they grow old after a while.
I thought so! I don’t think I’ve seen the second one yet. Sounds like I shouldn’t!
Naa. The second one gets pretty flimsy. But the minions are still a hoot and probably make it worth renting sometimes.
Great review! Totally agree. I adore those crazy little minions!!! But the human characters sucked, unlike in the brilliant Despicable Me films. But…. I’ll still watch any minion movie that ever gets made. I love those little guys. 😉
Exactly! Look at Despicable Me in contrast. The human characters were great – Gru, the three little girls, his mother, the elderly scientist, the jumpsuit wearing villain. And the minions interacted with each perfectly. Here they have absolutely no support yet still manage to keep the film from totally sinking.
Yep! Completely agree again. I adore Despicable Me as it’s the humans that really make the film (Gru & the three girls). The minions are just an awesome added extra. 🙂
This review sums up exactly how I feel about this film. I absolutely love the Minions but it felt like the studios attitude was that the Minions are so cute/funny that it doesn’t matter how lame the story is they’ll carry it and unfortunately it just wasn’t true. It felt like they wasted their awesomeness on a completely mediocre idea.
I think you put it extremely well. I think you may be right. They may have felt the minions could carry a movie just on their addictive zaniness. They certainly didn’t support them with good human characters or a good story. I absolutely love the opening though. It would’ve been an amazing short.
Yeah, this was my fear. I love those minion things, but the best supporting players usually NEED to be supporting because on their own they can’t carry a film. Great review!
I wholeheartedly agree. Great point. They truly are supporting characters and absolutely wonderful ones. This movie certainly does make you feel they can carry a film. On the other hand I would love to know what they could do if they had some halfway decent human supporting characters. There are none in this movie.
Hi Keith! I haven’t reviewed this yet, for some reason I just don’t feel like it. I do love these minions and I do find ’em funny, but I think the movie’s funniest parts are the ones in the trailer. I do like that part in the end when one of them thanked the Queen in Indonesian ‘Terima Kasih’ as the creator, Pierre Coffin, is half Indonesian 😉
Hey Ruth! I have those types of movies. You see them and you kind of dread doing the review. Can’t get into them.
My favorite part of this movie was the opening with Geoffrey Rush narrating. It would have been a marvelous short. Unfortunately the cute little yellow guys have no interesting human characters to work around. Entirely different than Despicable Me.
Great review! 🙂 I know the story is not that great but I couldn’t help having fun with this little yellow creatures since the moment they started singing as the Universal logo came up. They are adorable!
I love them too. I just can’t help it. I just wish they had better characters around them. That opening though! Absolutely loved it!