Over the last few years, “Despicable Me” (2010) and its 2013 sequel racked up huge box office numbers with sophisticated wit, depth and heart. Oh, and there were some pint-size jaundiced henchmen uttering mostly gibberish in the midst of each eventual pratfall. As these “Minions” now have their own toy line, they might as well have their own movie.
This prequel does not feature the same level of maturity; it aims much lower and achieves it. Therefore, children and Minion fans will not be disappointed as the cute little fiends deliver non-stop gags and relentless babble. Replacing depth in the storyline, adults are treated to a ’60s soundtrack featuring songs from the Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, Turtles and Monkees. Not all the songs fit the scenes, but still resonate a smile.
These little buggers prove they can carry a film all by themselves, but we hope their success does not invite their own sequel, which might be too much of a good thing. The gibberish is no worse than most political stump speeches and relentless slapstick is entertaining. However, there is a fine line between amusing and annoying.
Narrated by Geoffrey Rush, this story follows the Minions as they evolve through the ages and participate in historic moments of time. Existing solely to serve despicable masters, from T-Rex to Dracula, their misdirected assistance leads to the demise of the very ones they serve. In a deep funk for centuries, three of the Minions – Kevin, Stuart and Bob – venture out from their frozen caves and into the world of 1968 New York, Orlando and London in hopes of finding a new evil commander.
The mini-stooges meet a family where the wife (Allison Janney) tells her husband (Michael Keaton), “Oh Walter look, these adorable little freaks are headed to Orlando, too!” Off they go to Villain-Con, kind of a Comic-Con, to find a willingly wicked wizard. The star of that show is Super-Villainess Scarlet Overkill, voiced by Sandra Bullock in her first role ever as a villain. Flanked by her equally evil husband Herb, voiced by Jon Hamm, they enlist the Minions to help steal the crown from the Queen of England.
Written by Brian Lynch (“Puss in Boots”) and co-directed by Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin, all 899 Minions are voiced by Coffin. Fortunately, all Minions sound pretty much the same and only intermittently utter decipherable verbiage. Kevin, Stuart and Bob can save all Minion-kind as Scarlett bellows, “Work for me, and all this will be yours: respect and power.” Stuart aptly responds, “Banana!”
These diminutive mutants are more mischievous than despicable, but mostly they are loyal. Their nonsense is purposeful and relentless. The film requires as much serious consideration as Saturday morning on the Cartoon Network; but maybe it’s a good idea to disengage thought for silliness every now and then. If so, this will fix you right up.
If you listen carefully through the shenanigans and drivel, the little bummers say “thank you” in several languages. In addition to the ’60s tunes, music from Mozart, as well as Profofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” can be heard. Also included is a version of Donald O’Connor’s “Make ‘em Laugh” from “Singing in the Rain.” The Minions see excerpts from 1968 TV shows, such as “The Saint,” “Bewitched,” and “The Dating Game.” Finally, a political poster asks America to Trust Dick Nixon. What could be more nostalgic?
“Minions” is 91 minutes and rated PG for action and rude humor. This simplistic movie is spirited but isn’t for everyone. It’s fun and funny in a demented kind of way. Youngsters laughed out loud during the movie and even applauded at the end. Even adults might leave with a smile on their face, but thankful it’s no longer than its run time.
The yellow oddballs might be the next best thing to a windup monkey playing the cymbals, but are best received in small doses. However, avid fans follow Minions on Facebook and You Tube, have developed a Minion-to-English dictionary and regularly post Minion philosophy on social media to delight and annoy their friends. Even John Travolta thinks they are hard to understand, but to all those naysayers, we just say, “Banana!”
Ron’s Rating: B- Leigh’s Rating: C