Let me open by admitting that I am not the target audience for “Minions.” The target audience for this movie is people who do not completely despise the Minions; the gibberish-spewing, jellybean-like henchmen from the “Despicable Me” movies. I believe the Minions are annoying little dummies who shouldn’t have been allowed to ruin two otherwise fine family films. If you have kids who like the Minions, or if you like them yourself, you’ll probably get more of a kick out of this movie than I did.
I had always assumed that the Minions had been created by either Gru or Dr. Nefarious of “Despicable Me” since they seem to be the result of botched experimenting. But according to this movie, the Minions have a long and storied history. They live to serve despicable masters, though they don’t seem to believe in behaving despicably (not in a moral sense anyway). The masters actually don’t seem that despicable themselves, they’re mostly just huge animals who happen to be hungry. Even when it comes to humans, the Minions mostly just join up with grand-scale thieves instead of real monsters throughout history.
We open with a montage of the Minions serving and accidentally killing their masters over millennia. A misfire with Napoleon forces them into hiding for over a century. Eventually, one of them named Kevin decides to set out and find a new master. He enlists two other Minions named Stuart and Bob and they venture to 1960s New York City. From there, they travel to Orlando for a villains convention (there’s a brief road trip with a family of aspiring villains, which is amusing but isn’t important to the story and I’m guessing the whole angle was tacked on to pad the film’s running time).
At the convention, the trio bumbles their way into passing a test that makes them the new henchmen of supervillain Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock). Overkill is a master thief who wears red, so this is probably the closest we’re ever going to get to that Bullock Carmen Sandiego movie that is constantly rumored but never manages to materialize. She tasks the Minions with stealing the Crown Jewels of England so she can become Queen, at which point she’ll send for the other Minions. It seems out of character for Overkill to order the Minions to steal the crown when she takes so much pride in her own abilities. As you can probably guess, the job doesn’t go quite as planned and various hijinks ensue.
There are laughs to be had in this film, all at the hands of human characters. Bullock is having fun gnashing the scenery and Jon Hamm as her scientist husband is even more excitable. The criminal family led by Michael Keaton and Allison Janney are a hoot and deserve more than their throwaway storyline. I imagine this film will get a sequel, maybe they can show up there in an expanded role. Even Queen Elizabeth (Jennifer Saunders, underrated as the Fairy Godmother in “Shrek 2”) manages to steal a few scenes.
The film’s humor is very much like film’s plot: any time the humans do something right, the Minions are right there to screw it up. The Minions aren’t inherently funny with their incoherent babbling and they aren’t funny in their actions with their lame slapstick, cheap tastelessness, and general stupidity. Even if you like the Minions, the plot of this movie is threadbare and there’s an inconsistency to how loyal the Minions are to Scarlet in any given scene. The Minions are everywhere right now due to the film’s marketing. If you’re not sick of them yet, you might like this film. But it’s hard for me to imagine anyone not being sick of them.
One and a Half Stars out of Five
“Minions” is rated PG for action and rude humor. Its running time is 91 minutes.
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