Sometimes, an animated movie will come along that deserves to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Sometimes, this has actually happened. In 1991, The Academy nominated Beauty and the Beast for the highest honor, and Pixar has had its share of nominations with 2009’s Up and the following year’s Toy Story 3. Yet still, it’s okay to think that an animated film is good enough to compete with the big boys (see The LEGO Movie and even this year’s Inside Out). And to that list of animated movies that deserve to be awarded with a nomination for best picture of the year, do not (I repeat, do not) add Minions.
This prequel/spinoff/whatever-you-want-to-call-it kicks off in the early stages of human existence, and to say that is a gross understatement. Almost abandoning the implication set in the first Despicable Me movie that the minions were Gru’s creation, this movie takes us back to the dawn of the primordial soup (this is an expression). It doesn’t go that far back, but it does go back to when humanity didn’t exist and only underwater life ruled.
Then the first sea creature crawls out (not sure if this was supposed to be an intellectual Darwinian lecture or not) and the minions follow suit (they also existed in the water, trying to serve any brutal fish they could find). In a spectacular sequence, we see the minions go through many historical events trying to find a master to serve and do evil deeds for. The only problem with this sequence is that if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve already seen it. The fears that sparked up when the trailer released are realized as it spoils every hysterical event that the minions live through (they meet Dracula, too, which isn’t so much historical like the French Revolution, but it’s still funny).
After the film gives us this superb sequence that begins in the sea, tracks with the evolution of man, and finally ends up sending our three chosen minions (Stuart, Bob, and Kevin) to New York, it settles down and becomes a sluggish feature that seems to only do a good job at telling us that these cute little minions can’t do much to anchor a ninety-minute feature.
There is a plot, though, thin as it may be. Once the minions hit New York, they enter a store and see an ad for Villain-Con (some kind of convention for villains across the globe, incase you didn’t catch that by the name), they hit the road as hitchhikers in search for a ride to Orlando. They’re picked up by a loving family that turns out to be a group of villains themselves, and they make a stop on the way to rob a bank. It’s one of the funnier sequences scattered throughout the movie’s running time.
Once they arrive at Villain-Con, they meet the highly idolized Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock), a villain with enough tech to guide her through any possible issues and a following that guarantees her an endless supply of followers. Of course, as the Darwinian theory states, these little minions want to do what they were born to do: they want to follow Scarlett. And lucky them, because she just so happens to be in need of new followers.
Once the minions are taken in by Scarlett, they get a glimpse of her evil plan, which consists of the minions infiltrating the Tower of London to steal Queen Elizabeth’s crown. From there, the movie escalates and throws every little curveball it can to make things interesting for the younger crowd, while getting under the older crowd’s skin with barely anything more than “Ooooo hahahaha, BA-NAN-NAH” every other line.
I used “barely anything more” intentionally though, because there are a few things about Minions that make it moderately clever. When they arrive in New York in the late sixties, there is a political sign that says: “Nixon. A name you can trust.” Also, there is a fare amount of humorous hippie references and depictions that make the movie lean in the right direction in regard to entertaining the older audience.
But there aren’t enough of those mature references, and that, in itself, is a massive enough flaw in Minions, but the fact that it focuses itself on primarily kiddie humor isn’t really something I would like to use to destroy the movie, so I won’t. I didn’t find it nearly as enjoyable, funny, or clever as I did the Despicable Me films, and I’m not even the biggest fan of those movies. But the reason I like those movies more than Minions is evident.
The reason Despicable Me works is because it’s silly fun with enough of a real story to keep us involved. And then there are the minions, not only the most popular part of the films but also the best. These little yellow guys are everywhere (if you want to read an article explaining why the minions are only male, here it is). And there’s no denying that nearly every scene that featured the minions in the first two movies were actually funny.
But those movies knew how special those little yellow creatures were, so they preserved them and only brought them in when they knew the audience was waiting for them. Think of it like this. The Dark Knight is a prime example of a film that has a majestic performance (I’m obviously speaking of Heath Ledger as Joker), but didn’t overstate it. Ledger may have been the best part of the entire film, but he wasn’t the only part, and Christopher Nolan did a great job at bringing him in only when the audience was craving more of him.
A similar instance is with the NBC series The Office and its character Creed Bratton. In my opinion, one of the most mysteriously hilarious characters in a television show ever. But he wouldn’t be as funny if the showrunners had put him in every episode. We would’ve grown really tired of him really quickly.
That is where Minions takes a wrong turn. I was among those on board for a minions-led feature (after all, who doesn’t love those little bundles of innocent joy?), but this movie proves that putting them in their own movie was a mistake. The minions are still hilarious little buggers, and I will still laugh when I put in one of the first two movies and see some of the funny sequences that the minions lead in those films, but this ninety-minute feature of nothing but banana jokes and meaningless babbling (which frequently turns into Spanish for some reason), is just for the kids. It lacks what makes movies like Inside Out and The Boxtrolls work for all ages.
If you want a movie for the entire family, you can still get your minion fix with the first two Despicable Me movies (both are decent entertainment). If you just want your little ones to have a good time, this might be a good pick. It’s all about personal preference. But this person prefers to see Inside Out for a third time.
1 hr. 31 mins.
Rated PG for action and rude humor
Starring Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan
Written by Brian Lynch
Directed by Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda