Synopsis: Minions Stuart, Kevin and Bob are recruited by Scarlet Overkill, a super-villain who, alongside her inventor husband Herb, hatches a plot to take over the world. (From IMDb)
Review: From the minds behind Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 comes the origin story of the lovable animated Twinkies, the Minions. Despicable Me became a break out hit partly due to the amusing antics of the main character’s sidekicks. The Minions were ridiculous, marginally intelligent, and quite funny. They bounced around on screen and messed up everyone’s plans, even though they were only trying to be helpful. Part of their appeal lies in their soft hearts and need to be appreciated by all. A standalone minion movie was inevitable though not necessarily needed. The Minions make excellent supporting characters because they provide the comic relief without needing a dramatic undertone. However, the minion characters were developed in such a manner that it is impossible to give them any kind of meaningful character development. They can either be serious or goofy. There really is no in between option available. While I certainly enjoyed certain scenes in the Minion movie, it suffered from a lack of expert narrative crafting. And certain part of the narrative got rather dark for a children’s movie.
Minions is a prequel movie to Despicable Me. It explores the evolution and careers of the minions before they meet up with Gru. Since the dawn of time the minions have existed solely to serve the biggest, toughest, and most despicable villain in existence. However, the minions have a tendency to put their masters in mortal danger. This includes switching allegiances when a bigger fish comes along, pushing a Tyrannosaurs Rex into a volcano, killing Dracula, and smashing an Egyptian Pharaoh. As far as henchmen go, minions are more of a hindrance than a help. However, the minions require a master and are directionless without someone telling them what to do every day. One day Kevin, Stuart, and Bob leave the minion cave and embark on a mission to find a new master. This leads them to Villain Con, a convention for all the bad guys in the world to meet and recruit. While there, the three minions meet Scarlett Overkill, the world’s first female super villain. Obviously, they decide that she is the most despicable villain in existence and want to work for her. From that point onwards the film follows the minions as they make one mistake after another and soon have to evade the machinations of Scarlett.
From an animation perspective, the film is gorgeous. It has lots of color, clean lines, and remarkably well rendered versions of New York and London. For a movie about villains, the scenery and color schemes are remarkably cheery. Animation has progressed significantly since the early years of filmmaking. While the digitization allows for more realistic interpretations, modern animation has lost the simple charm of earlier films. Minions may be enjoyable but it will never reach the classic status of Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. I am curious to know about the production of Minions since some of the narrative choices struck a sour stylistic note. For instance, several of the song choices felt out of place and odd. Though the opening song, Imagine Me & You, was a stroke of genius. Otherwise, a lot of the music seemed like last minute choices like My Generation, Happy Together, You Really Got Me, and Mellow Yellow. Despite the comedic gags and the familiar soundtrack, there’s not a lot of depth to the narrative, Compared to Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2, Minions felt unpolished and half-baked. The plot pacing, character development, and nuances all felt slightly off. Part of the reason is the film lacked a central character.
For a story about villains the plot lacked a major component: an antagonist. Sandra Bullock’s role as Scarlett Overkill has been expertly marketed and the expectation was that she would be horrible. Well as horrible as reasonable for a children’s movie. But Scarlett is a letdown. She is not particularly evil and comes across as a spoiled child with megalomaniac tendencies. Scarlett is shrill and falls flat. Herb Overkill, voiced by Jon Hamm, is her groovy inventor husband with a flair for the dramatic. As a couple, Scarlett and Herb are hilarious and the film would have been better if their relationship was more developed. Jon Hamm and Sandra Bullock certainly enjoyed channeling their inner villains. Jennifer Saunders lends her voice to Queen Elizabeth and does a great job. Of all the supporting characters, Queen Elizabeth was the standout. Michael Keaton and Allison Janney showed up to voice the leaders of a family on a crime spree. Geoffrey Rush is the narrator and lends some gravitas to the film. None of these roles require a lot of emoting, so most of the characters fall flat. But it is a children’s movie so most of the audience probably will not care or notice.
Kevin, Stuart, and Bob, the three heroes, are cute and clever. Kevin is the brains, Stuart is the smooth talker, and Bob is the naïve youngster along for the ride. The Minions are an adorable bunch of sidekicks and it is difficult not to root for them, even though they are destined to be the sidekicks to evil masters. With vaguely familiar language and a penchant for causing mayhem, the Minions will continue to win people over with their over the top shenanigans. The opening 20 minutes are proof that the Minions could carry a film if the narrative was written correctly. When the film focused on the three main Minions, the narrative was great. However, the more outlandish the sequences became, the less entertaining the narrative became. Minions had moments of touching absurdity, like when Stuart plays a rock anthem on a guitar, but the narrative arc becomes lost somewhere between New York and London. And the film heavily referenced The Beatles, Godzilla, and the musical Hair, which are odd elements for a children’s movie. Overall, the minions are as cute as ever but their standalone film falls rather flat.