To be a great villain, you need a team of equally great henchmen. Cobra Commander has his commandos, Rita Repulsa has The Putty Patrol, and The Monarch has his Fluttering Horde (kudos if you’re still with me). World domination is built on the backs of hard-working teamsters who would do anything for their master. But can we truly enjoy a movie that focuses only on these small-minded sidekicks? Illumination Entertainment sure hopes we can, as they attempt to milk the Despicable Me franchise for every last adorable dollar. Time to find out if Gru’s lovable yellow minions can hold their own in Hollywood, or if the lack of their fearless leader (Steve Carell) spells disaster for their solo master plan.
Minions tells the story of how Gru’s little helpers came to find their dastardly boss, dating back to their first attempts at villainy. These pint-sized minions-in-training stood behind a host of historical baddies, including a Pharaoh, Napoleon and everything else in between. It wasn’t until their stint with Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock), however, that they truly ended up initiated into the science fiction-y world of supervillains. It’s here where we meet the film’s main villain, the feminine-yet-deadly Overkill, who fills the void left by Gru’s absence in this minion-centric prequel. She’s a beacon for women who’ve yet to get the equality they deserve, taking the male-dominated criminal underworld by storm with her deadly accessories and cunning demeanor – but she’s no Gru.
Even though these minions only live to serve, three heroic members of the tribe set out on a long, arduous journey in search of a boss that will end their cold streak of bum employment. Kevin, Stu, and Bob give their fellow minions hope in the form of a dream, and will stop at nothing to achieve it. This is how they eventually find themselves in attendance at Villain Con – thanks to the Nelson family (Allison Janney and Michael Keaton) – and in Scarlett Overkill’s good graces. But when Bob accidentally becomes the king of England, their relationship with Scarlett hits a rough patch – until he hands over the crown to his fearless female leader.
Of course, there’s trouble in paradise when Scarlett takes the throne, which only ensures that the minion hi-jinx heighten when the bouncy trio are forced to escape a dangerous fate. It’s exactly the kind of goofy story you’d expect from a minion-focused movie, complete with a majority of incoherent babbling and plenty of banana-shaped distractions. The minions have become a known brand amongst children’s entertainment, finding a similar spinoff success to the penguins from Madagascar. I mean, who doesn’t love a group of bumbling, indistinguishable workers who double as slapstick comedians?
You have to give directors Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin credit for creating an entertaining movie based around their popular minion property, but this hard-rockin’ quest serves as a fantastical distraction more than a powerful bit of animated folklore. The minions do what the minions do best: make us laugh through their struggles to assimilate into human culture. Propelled by a love of all things evil and a lust for the almighty banana, there’s too much zany comedy packed into these little oblong adventurers to ignore. Plus, Minions makes proper use of a rockin’ soundtrack that’s loaded with talent like The Beatles, The Doors, The Who (pretty much any “The” band), which guides the movie with an undeniably infectious energy.
From Stu’s lothario ego to Bob’s child-like wonder, there’s hardly a moment where you’ll find yourself bored by their explode-y, ill-advised, and always exciting antics.
Yet, even with the addition of voice actors like Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, and Allison Janney, Minions pales in comparison to more mature children’s tales that have something meaningful to say. Don’t get me wrong, the creativity level here is off the charts as far as Scarlett’s gadgets are concerned (a groovy lava lamp gun). The same imagination lends itself to a slew of equally mean-spirited villains who present numerous opportunities to introduce differentiating characters.
Yet, even with such menacing foes to behold, Coffin’s minion mumbling overshadows even Jon Hamm’s outta sight work as Scarlett’s inventor husband, Herb. Hamm has a ton of fun shaping his voice to fit Herb’s Austin Powers-like mojo, as you can tell by the vocal enthusiasm he brings, and for that, he stands out as an English-speaking favorite. But is one jiving gadget crafter worth the price of admission?
Minions is cute ENOUGH, silly ENOUGH, and evil ENOUGH – but is enough REALLY ENOUGH? When you’re talking about Kevin and his gang, you can be certain their wacky sensibilities will supply proper amounts of off-the-wall fun. Just don’t expect anything more. This film is more for the tiny toddlers who only need fat dancing men on screen to bust a good laugh, and not the budding cinematic minds ready to be teased by Pixar’s heavier themes. But hey, sometimes you just need a good laugh, and in that respect, Gru’s henchmen are there to offer a helping hand – just don’t come to them looking for manual labor.
Minions is an old-school spy flick for a younger generation, but without Gru's guidance, this jovial spinoff is simply about base-value laughs and one-off gags. It's a neat little way to pass the time, but not much else.