|Runtime:||1 Hour 31 mins|
|Release Date:||US: Jul 10 2015
UK: Jun 26 2015
|See If You Like:||Despicable Me|
Hands up time: I don’t get the big fuss surrounding Universal’s Minions characters. From their first appearance in the disappointing Despicable Me, they’ve seemed to firmly plant themselves in pop culture with numerous appearances in memes, adverts and, of course, kids merchandise, but they have hardly shown anything apart from being yellow and silly. Whilst a spin-off of their own accord may have sounded dreadful awhile ago, Illumination Entertainment have managed to pull off an entertaining call-back to the level of disposable chaotic cartoon fun that modern day children’s animated movies lack; turning the Minions themselves into something more than a cheap marketing plot.
Having been around since the dawn of time and evolution, the yellow coloured and small in stature mischievous sidekick army known as the Minions have had one goal and one goal only in their lives – to seek out the biggest and badest villain known to them and serve them. Usually though, through their own mistakes, they usually bump off their master and leave themselves in search of a new one. After building their own community in an icy recluse after accidentally ridding Europe of Napoleon, the Minions find themselves bored and without a goal in life without anyone to serve. A trio of Minions – Kevin, Stuart & Bob – decide to go back out into the world during the tail end of the 1960’s to seek a new master with top deadly female supervillain Scarlet Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock, Gravity) in their sights.
Skimming down the massive and individuality lacking mass of Minions down to our core heroes is a smart move. Not only does it give some focus, but we are also treated to some fun and easy aspects. Kevin is the leader one with his head screwed on, but finds time for a laugh too. Stuart is the lazy drifter type whose only on the quest by accident, and would rather play his guitar. Bob is a younger, sweet minion who is never far away from his teddy bear and seems to make friends with everyone. It adds some badly needed character to a few of the en masse to familiarise themselves to us, rather than this silly gestalt identity we have been treated to previously. Their nonsense babble speak (all voiced by director Pierre Coffin) doesn’t get to the point of grating thankfully in their own feature length movie and I do like the simple, one track mindedness to find that big boss to serve as it’s in their genetic programming to be silly and playfully naughty sidekicks to them.
My favourite aspect of Minions is that it’s not like all the other children’s computer generated films you find today. Nowadays, you can thank Pixar for literally every kids film (no matter the concept) to try and crowbar in some sort of message and feels. Here though, none of that mercifully. Instead, we’re treated to a 90-minute-long Looney Tunes-esque showcase of cartoon chaos… and it’s wonderful. I’d much rather have this, which enables me to gleefully indulge in the comical Tom & Jerry levels of violence than have Disney repeatedly kick me in the feels nether-region to get the same muted reaction repeatedly. The seeming indestructibility of the Minions and the numerous inventions they pick up from Overkill’s other half adds to the slapstick humour that will leave the kids amused. Adults will find serviceable jokes with some direction towards Stuart’s reaction to wrecking a present and President Richard Nixon. It does at times feel very French if I can be very jingoistic with some humour intended for both age groups falling a tad flat. I mean, a minion obsessed with yellow fire hydrant is pretty random as it sounds.
In some remarkable sense of not wanting to spoil the finale, I applaud how the final third has been kept under wraps and does boast the best gags and moments which outdo anything in the promotional trailers. You don’t have to give everything away to get people interested… I’m looking at you Terminator Genisys! The exploration of the villain underworld the Minions wants to serve is cheerfully summed up at the San Diego Comic-Con parody Villain Con with numerous Mer-men and criminal family gangs running amok (with nifty knitted face masks) in a smart pastiche. There’s been a few quid spent on the shockingly great soundtrack with plenty of suitable tunes from The Doors, The Who & Jimi Hendrix to supplement the comedic action on screen and for an American production of a children’s film about a plot to steal the Queen of England’s (well Great Britain technically) crown jewels, the usual stereotypes don’t feel forced and the comedic setting helps highlight the ludicrous nature of Overkill attempting to become a princess like she’s always wanted from childhood, despite the fact she has multiple death rays and doomsday devices to take over if she wants.
Even with some hit and miss narrative structure which crowbars our yellow devils in at any opportunity – far enough to a point, since it’s their film – and a Pixar-esque attempt to make you feels towards the end artificially, all of the voice actor work here from quite notable names will fly over your heads. Sure Bullock stands out but I never made the connection to Michael Keaton (Birdman) and the family gang dad until looking it up after the film, nor Steve Coogan (Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa) pulling double duty in two short but hilarious jokes. It’s either them doing a good job in their voice-acting work which masks their own distinguished voices or the sound department did not do a decent job highlighting them.
I won’t lie – I was dreading this before going to see it, but I was pleasantly surprised by the lone big screen outing of the Minions. A harken back to easy watching cartoon violence of the olden days goes a long way in the sea of forced-feels kids films we’re treated to by Disney & Pixar today (although Minions shoots itself in the foot when it tries to do the same). You can’t deny it’s quite a cute and fun kids film (especially at a time when we could do with something disposable such as this), though the humour is hit and miss, and overall Minions is quite missable.
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