They're cute. They're funny. But they're also pretty predictable. While the kids will no doubt laugh their pants off, the older viewer is left a little underwhelmed by the Minion's first solo outing.
It was inevitable that the breakout stars of Despicable Me would eventually get their very own movie. The world took to these adorable little yellow creatures like a kitten to catnip; it would seem everyone is Minion-mad. But while these characters were undoubtedly the diminutive highlights of the previous films – adding a sense of unabashedly childish fun to the straight-faced villainy of their master, Gru – in this first solo outing, the Minions just aren’t quite up to scratch.
The film, which is mainly narrated by Geoffrey Rush, seeks to explore the lives of the Minions before they met Gru – posing a lengthy back-story to the little yellow population and their sole purpose in the world. Supposedly, the Minions live to serve the biggest, baddest creatures on the planet – and have done so since the beginning of time, serving all, from the dinosaurs to Dracula. The problem is that due to their innocent (yet dumbfounded) incompetence, the Minions often lose their masters not too long after finding them. Stuck in a master-less rut, the Minions are desperate for purpose, and send out three of their kind – Kevin, Stuart and Bob – to travel into the big wide world and search for a new leader.
The trio soon find themselves on the way to ‘Villain Con’ in Florida – a comic-con like event, at which the biggest, baddest villains come together for an annual extravaganza of evil. It is here, that the Minions find a choice candidate for their new boss: the world’s first female super-villain – Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock). She soon hires the trio and assigns them a dastardly mission: to go to London and steal Queen Elizabeth’s crown.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not a terrible movie, and the Minions still retain a certain sense of charm from the Despicable Me movies, but the plot is very predictable, with many of the main characters feeling very undernourished. Though there are seemingly hundreds of Minions (all voiced by director, Pierre Coffin), only three are given their own individual characteristics. Kevin is the determined leader and the most sensible of them all, while Stuart is something of a lazy Minion – too swept up in his own daydreaming to be interested in what’s happening around him. And then there’s Bob, the young innocent of the group, who goes about the film with a look of wide-eyed wonder. As main characters, they’re certainly amicable – but they’re also predictable, and extremely safe. The plot puts the trio into various situations – some rife with danger – but never once do you ever get the feeling that anything terrible will happen to any of them. Yes, it’s a children’s film, so no-one is supposed to die, but having heroes that aren’t believably threatened by their adversaries proves to be a very underwhelming experience – especially when you consider how far other animations (mainly made by Pixar) have gone to get you to care for their characters. Here, it is just expected.
Speaking of adversaries, let’s talk a little about Scarlet Overkill. At first glance, the character seems very promising. A female super-villain kicking butt and dominating all, in an overwhelmingly patriarchal setting (the 1960s), and brought to life by the sultry tones of Sandra Bullock: how could they ever get that wrong? Well, to put it frankly, through (lack of) character development. The character is so disappointingly two-dimensional. She is made to be a villain that is all style over substance, with a ‘key’ motivation that is so vapid and uninteresting that it could very easily fly straight over your head. What could have been a very bold and interesting character was ultimately sullied and dumbed down to the Minions’ level.
The plot obviously has elements of the ridiculous, but it’s as predictable as you like. The depiction of 1960’s Britain is also decidedly mixed. While the soundtrack is appropriately rad and the various pop culture references can be quite fun to see, the Americanised cliché of the overly polite, prim and proper Englishman is really overdone in this movie, and their version of the Queen (voiced by Jennifer Saunders), is both laughable and ludicrous.
For all my bashing of this film though, there are admittedly some moments where the comedy works and laughs are quite rightly loud. But even then, a lot of the film’s best bits have already been seen through the relentless promotional trailers, which proves to be a real shame. The ending however, is something of a punch-the-air moment, as we are finally given the context between the Minions’ union with Gru. Ultimately, for all it’s faults, the film is (maybe) worth watching, purely for that small reminder that the Minions only work best with their one true despicable master.
Minions (2015), directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, is distributed in the UK by Universal Pictures, Certificate U.