‘Minions’ Is a Big Yellow Blur

Like most kid franchise spinoffs, this headache-inducing snooze from the Despicable Me team is just a cash grab.
2015-07-10 (General release)

It’s easy to see the Minions’ appeal for children and the occasional adult. In the two Despicable Me films, the battalions of chubby little sidekicks were great chaotic fun. At any given moment, they were just as likely to save the world or blow it sky-high with their Three Stooge-ish enthusiasms.

It’s also clear why the filmmakers adore them so: they’re easy comedy filler. Not sure what to do while their boss Gru (Steve Carell) is readying his next smoke-snorting super-weapon? Send in the Minions! Their rampaging is always sure to wake up the younger kids in the audience who already lost track of what’s happening. Gru might have been the first two movies’ star, but everyone cheered for his dangerously loyal and deliriously antic aides.

Still, as every parent knows, when you keep feeding the kids exactly what they clamor for without stop, it will make them sick. That’s what happens with Minions, just the latest in the summer’s sequels onslaught and by far one of the most tiring. Misreading the love bestowed on the Minions by those millions of kids who have watched Despicable Me dozens of times, writer Brian Lynch (also responsible for the final wringing out of the Shrek franchise, Puss in Boots) provides an origin story and then another washed-out and watered-down super-villain plot.

Sounding bored, Geoffrey Rush narrates the opening tale of how the Minions as a race spent millions of years searching earth for an impressively powerful boss and coming up short. They eagerly dash after everyone from a Tyrannosaurus Rex to a caveman and possibly even Napoleon, only to end up killing them with horrible advice. It’s not a bad start. The cock-eyed humor has a jauntiness reminiscent of the TV version of Rocky and Bullwinkle, would it have worked just fine as a short.

But summer demands feature films, which in turn demand heroes. And so three of the Minions again head out into the world to find a leader. (Why they have to do this is never explained. It’s apparently just in Minions DNA to seek out evil and abase themselves before it.) We can sort of tell these three Minions apart: Kevin is taller with a tuft of hair, Bob has just one eye and is described as looking like “a bald, jaundiced child.” Or maybe that’s Stuart. In any case, they all spout the same nonsensical da-ba-doo-bah dialogue (all voiced by co-director Pierre Coffin), flecked with the occasional bit of Spanish, proving that, just as summer blockbusters don’t need logical plots (thank you, Michael Bay), neither do they need comprehensible language.

The Minions work without plot or language: thrown into 1968 and accompanied by out-of-context Rolling Stones tracks, they swiftly reach their destination, a sinister convention in a swampy, pre-Disney World Orlando dubbed “Villain-con”. The opportunities available in that set-up are astounding, particularly for this series’ love of clattering, banging Rube Goldberg gadgetry and outré villainy. But just when the Minions are finding their way in a strange and groovy world, the movie is hijacked by their new object of affection: super-villainess Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock), who just so happens to be holding tryouts for her new sidekicks.

From there on, Minions grinds itself ever deeper into a hole. Overkill whisks the Minions off to her Dr. Seussian castle in London. Here, except for some sly work by her mod husband Herb Overkill (a very out of character Jon Hamm), they don’t have any time to form a bond with either Overkill à la the one they have with Gru. Instead, the movie devolves speedily into a tiresome scrap over the throne of England.

It’s sad to say that the film can’t even measure up to the admittedly low bar set by the Despicable Me films, which at least tried to establish some relationships in between all the falling down and exploding whiz-bangs. After about 45 minutes of Minions, what comic potential there was in these madcap sidekicks is utterly drained away, leaving you wistful for the dramatic clarity and precision storytelling of a Three Stooges marathon.

RATING 3 / 10