“Doesn’t it feel so good to be bad?”
Did we need a Minions movie? Absolutely not. If the current Hollywood model was around years ago, creating full length films based on memorable side characters, we’d have had a movie about the Toy Story aliens by now. Just picture the poster, those white eyes staring up into a bright light, “The Claw” written in bold block letters with countless hands reaching in the air. Hopefully Pixar doesn’t stoop to that level. And while I’ve made these negative statements, Minions isn’t all that bad. In all seriousness, it’s pretty funny up until the disastrous last third. It is as stupid as it is clever. The movie is a sugary tic-tac. Convenient pill form, easy to digest, no bad aftertaste, fairly forgettable. There is little – if any – nutritional value to be found here. That doesn’t mean you can’t indulge just a wee bit.
Minions have been around longer than man. They’ve served the dinosaurs and the cavemen. Without a master, a leader, their lives have no purpose. That’s their incidental catch-22 though, because more times than none, upon finding the baddest of the bad to pledge allegiance to, they accidentally make them kick the bucket. So they form their own society. But with that isolation comes loneliness and a desperation to find their purpose…their calling. That’s really what Minions is all about, even with the colorful and loud dressings. The delightful production design tells us immediately that this is set Pre-Nixon administration in 1968. From there we follow our trio of Kevin, Stuart and Bob as they make their way to villain-con in Orlando. It’s their chance to serve the most evil of them all, to save their kind, and to find their place in this otherwise nondescript animated world.
Look at the cast overview for Minions on IMDB.com and you’ll see 34 contributors credited as “additional voices.” That’s malarkey. Save for Geoffrey Rush as the narrator of the story, none of the marquee voices (they’re not voice actors) are able to stand out. Sandra Bullock is unidentifiable as Scarlett Overkill. Her character lives up to the name. There’s also Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, the boundless Allison Janney…they’re all nearly unrecognizable. Their distinct voices are lost and smothered by the Minion’s gibberish. It’s Spanish, English, nonsense. The little “jaundiced orphans” make as much sense as their dialogue does, but I still imagine that should you be deaf or hard of hearing, you’d get just as many laughs. This is the tablet-touching toddler generation’s iteration of Larry, Curly and Moe. It’s the new age version of the Three Stooges, and Minions remains afloat better than most because it refuses to take off its floaties. Stay surface level and you never stand the chance of drowning. And you also never have the chance of finding Atlantis.
Following its box office opening weekend, a staggering number good enough for 2nd best all time for an animated feature, it’s safe to say we’ll see the Minions again sooner than later. I’m fine with that too. Kids love ’em because their own fast-paced and unfocused thoughts are who these characters are. Granted, for an adult, and even with some really funny bits, the nonsense wears thin rather quickly. By the end we’re in a large-scale fight which betrays the innocent and beguiling nature of the three little goofballs. It rubs off the sugacoating, and we’re left forced to swallow something that’s lost all the initial bursts of flavor and taste.
Good and kid-friendly animated movies are hard to make. There are far more flops and duds than there are success stories. The genre is a dime a dozen type of business. Minions has built-in merchandising that most franchises don’t, and they mightily resemble the loud and unbearable children’s toy that you can’t stand. I genuinely feel for the adults who will hear their kids screaming “banana!” for months to come. And despite the low-level humor delivered at an almost indiscernible rate, I’ll be damned if the jokes don’t hit more times than not. Minions certainly isn’t a great movie, but its surprising physical humor recalls the great, oftentimes inspired comedy acts of the past. Like those, sometimes even the dumb can surprise you with some smarts.
Rating: 3 out of 5