Doug Reviews: Minions

minions_ver4_xlgSpinning out of the Despicable Me film series, the Minions have now arrived in their own film, aptly titled, Minions. Being that the little yellow guys are the best part of the Despicable films, this movie should be a home run, right? Well….

The film begins in the far-flung past to show that Minions have been around since the dawn of time, always seeking out the biggest, baddest villain to serve. This little montage was pretty much covered in the trailer, but it was still a cute, funny sequence to show the Minions’ overall bad luck in keeping their bosses alive. After serving a particular French general and ruler, the Minions are chased away by his army and they take refuge in a frozen cave, where they form their own little society. However, as time passes, the Minions grow despondent and depressed since they have no boss to serve. Enter Kevin (Pierre Coffin, who voices all the Minions), a resourceful Minion who volunteers to head out into the world and find their new boss. With him, he takes cool guy Stuart and the eager, but little Bob. The three friends set out into the world and the audience learns that the year is now 1968 and the boys end up in the big city of New York. While there, they learn of Villain Con, (appropriate since San Diego Comic Con was going on during the film’s opening weekend), a place where all those good at doing bad celebrate villains. Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock) is on top of the villain heap and Kevin decides the Minions should work for her. The con is in Orlando and the boys have to find a way down there. After hitching a ride with a family of bank robbers, also on their way to Villain Con, the boys arrive at the convention and network with some humorous baddies. Then they show up to Scarlett’s keynote speech where she reveals, as luck would have it, she’s looking for a few good Minions. She challenges the room of evildoers to try and take a gem from her. Of course, through a series of mishaps, the Minions end up with the jewel and she takes them into her employ. They fly back to her castle in London where they meet Scarlett’s husband, Herb (Jon Hamm), an evil inventor who creates all sorts of fun and dastardly gadgets. Scarlett reveals her ultimate plan is to steal the Crown Jewels of England from Queen Elizabeth II (Jennifer Saunders). Once Scarlett has the crown, she’ll rule over England. Not sure that’s how it works, but okay. The Minions set out to do her bidding and Bob ends up with the crown and the title of Ruler of England. Scarlett then seeks revenge for the apparent double-cross and the Minions have to make things right.

The film is definitely very cute and very funny in parts. I kind of feel that the trailer ruined a lot of the best bits. It’s a Minions movie, you pretty much know what you’re going to get. The problem is, while the film can be very funny, pretty much all you’re going to get is slapstick humor because the Minions speak in a mishmash of languages that comes out mainly as gibberish. Also, this movie was written solely for kids. I found myself laughing during much of the film, but I was also bored in spots. This is not a Pixar film by any means. Pixar is meticulous in writing their screenplays so that they can be seen by anyone, but there are several levels to them. Adults can enjoy them just as much as children. I guess, because of the Minions’ lack of language, the closest comparison one could make to a Pixar film would be WALL-E, and Minions doesn’t come close to touching the quality of that film. True, it’s probably not what the filmmakers were going for anyway, but the comparison is just to illustrate how to make films for everyone as opposed to just making “kiddie films.” I also felt that the script was over-simplified as well. Much of the driving action in this film is coincidence and luck. The Minions are looking for villains? Oh, well Villain Con is this weekend! The Minions need a new boss? Oh, it just so happens that Scarlett Overkill is looking for minions! I’m not saying I was expecting deep character development, but I at least wanted a well-told story. It just felt a little lazy in its execution, as if the filmmakers didn’t trust the audience (kids) to follow along. Also, the plot is very shallow. The Minions have one goal and then Scarlett’s goal becomes their goal. There is nothing else really going on and it gets a little dull in the middle. I was expecting non-stop hilarity, but it’s not to be found here.

One thing that’s really great about the film is the music. I don’t want to think about how large the music budget was on this movie to get some of the licenses they got. If there’s an artist that was active in 1968, they’re probably in here—yes, even the Beatles. Kudos to the filmmakers for making that happen.

Kevin, Stuart, and Bob all have distinct personalities and are beyond cute. Kevin is the sensible one and tries to do the right thing not just for himself, but for his people. Stuart is the bad boy of the group and is too cool for school. He has his humorous moments, but the film really belongs to Kevin and Bob. Bob is flat out adorable. He loves everybody and everything, especially his teddy bear. His character is so sweet and really the emotional center of the film when it even attempts to make the Minions more than just caricatures. Bullock and Hamm are good in their roles—Hamm’s voice is almost unrecognizable to those who just know him from Mad Men—but they are really just plot devices. The filmmakers try to give Scarlett some dimension, but her plan is just ridiculous. She would have been better trying to conquer some fictional country or something. Michael Keaton and Allison Janney put in nice appearances as the mother and father of the bank-robbing family and be on the lookout for an obvious, but delightful cameo.

Overall, while I enjoyed Minions for the most part, I have to label it a minor disappointment. Kids will love it, but I’m always looking for the next Pixar and Illumination Entertainment is not it. It just shows how hard it is to pull off what Pixar does. The Minions are sweet and cute characters, but it was tough to sit through an entire film featuring just them. They might work better in smaller doses like a TV show or something, but if this movie blows up at the box office, I’m sure we’ll see them again in their own feature.

Rating: C+

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