Editor’s Notes: Minions is currently out in wide theatrical release. For another perspective the film, read Minions: Stretching the Sideshow by Jason McKiernan and Minions: A Popcorn Feast for the Soul by Laura Shearer.
Minions, the third film featuring the Twinkie-like little henchmen after Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 (with part 3 coming out in a year or two), is a fun little movie that doesn’t strive for more than making the audience laugh from the silliness portrayed onscreen by these adorable little gibberish-spouting creatures.
A fun little movie that doesn’t strive for more than making the audience laugh from the silliness portrayed onscreen by these adorable little gibberish-spouting creatures.
The story is that the Minions have been on Earth as long as life has been, evolving independently from single-celled organisms who followed around the biggest, baddest fish to multi-celled organisms who sought out the most evil creature to serve from T-Rex to Dracula to Napoleon, killing off each and every one of their masters until they found themselves alone in the snowy wastelands of either upper-upper Russia or the North Pole and there they remained for hundreds of years (Minions are also apparently immortal). Initially they found this frozen wasteland a wonderland where they developed their own society and loved just being alive, but then depression set in after going a very long time without a master to serve. Then Kevin (voiced by director Pierre Coffin, who wrote/co-wrote and directed the first two Despicable films and was roped into being the voice of all the Minions because the sound department couldn’t replicate his example of how they should sound) decided to strike out to find a new boss. He took Stewart and Bob with him for help (also voiced by Coffin) and they leave Minion-topia (my name for it) unaware of what they could face in the now vastly changed world, having left civilization somewhere around 1812 during Napoleon’s defeat in Russia and now re-emerging in 1968.
What this all boils down to is that Minions may not have any emotional depth or any particularly realized characters, but what it does have is a lot of heart and a ton of laughs.
They eventually make their way to New York and while watching TV after accidentally being locked in a department store after closing, they stumble upon a secret villain network while trying to get better reception on the rabbit-ears to see the end of The Dating Game episode that was on. They find out about Villain-Con, a convention boasting the best of villainy to be held in Orlando, Florida (then pretty much just swampland). The snag a ride with a family of bank robbers also headed to Villain-Con, the father voiced by Michael Keaton, the mother by Allison Janney in wonderful little cameos who pop up throughout the film. Upon arrival, they inadvertently win a contest to become the new henchmen of the first woman super-villain, Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and her husband Herb (Jon Hamm). Scarlett gives Kevin, Stewart and Bob the task of stealing the Queen of England (Jennifer Saunders)’s crown. If they can do that and make her Queen, the Minions could work for her permanently.
Buoying all of this heavy plot is the inherent charm and silliness of the Minions. I’ve been a fan of them since Despicable Me and their larger part in Despicable Me 2 is what made that film so endearing for me. It’s true that this film, while heavy on plot, is light in substance or any kind of deeper realization like the two Despicable movies have. There’s no deeper meaning or veiled theme here, just pure fun watching these cute little things run amuck and cause mayhem and destruction wherever they go. The simplicity of these creatures is what makes them so endearing and lovable.
The story is really a superficial means to get to see the Minions dominate the screen. Writer Brian Lynch seems to know why people would go see this movie so he doesn’t waste time on particularly dense characters surrounding Kevin, Stuart and Bob. Scarlett could have been a great character in another setting and Herb is a lot of fun, but they are merely mechanisms to get to more Minion antics. Don’t mistake that for my being disparaging of the film, I’m not. Lynch wonderfully creates situations that only the Minions could get into and subsequently get out of in their own particular brand of incompetent expertise to hilarious, often laugh-out-loud effect. Lynch also works in loads of topical references for anyone who either grew up in the 60’s or (like me) love the films, music and television of the era. All the references are very savvy and add a layer of fun to the picture.
Also deserving of kudos are the directors Kyle Barda and Coffin. They, along with their animators, production designers and cinematography department have created a richly textured world that utilizes the look of the Despicable films while upping the quality of animation. They get the best out of their voice talent, making them sound like they all had a lot of fun making the picture and pouring that fun into their characters.
And while, as I’ve stated, the non-Minion actors had little in the way of substance, they still had very good bits. It was a treat to hear Bullock go all out for Scarlett Overkill, reminding us that despite the fact that most comedies she makes are awful, she really is quite funny. Another fun character was Hamm’s Herb Overkill. Hamm doesn’t usually get to stretch his comedic legs so to have him be funny in a film, as opposed to his normally hilarious talk show interviews or the times he shows up on Doug Benson’s Doug Loves Movies podcast (which incidentally I would love to take over for him if he ever tires of doing it. They wouldn’t even need to change the name!). Michael Keaton was a delight here as well, reminding us that although he’s been primarily a dramatic actor for the last 25 years or so (since Batman really), he’s still really funny.
What this all boils down to is that Minions may not have any emotional depth or any particularly realized characters, but what it does have is a lot of heart and a ton of laughs. Those little guys light up the screen, stepping out from their supporting roles and shining in the spotlight. Many have criticized this move, saying that the Minions are better as comic relief to show up occasionally but then cede the limelight to the weightier stories and more developed characters like Gru, Margot, Edith and Agnes but I disagree. They hold their own here, and make compelling characters. Minions isn’t a great film, but it’s a lot of fun and unashamed of its silliness and has enough going for it to entertain everyone in the theater, young and old.
Minions isn’t a great film, but it’s a lot of fun and unashamed of its silliness and has enough going for it to entertain everyone in the theater, young and old.