Minions a Gru-Some Addition to Despicable Me Series
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- 2015 9 Jul
DVD Release Date: December 8, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: July 10, 2015
Rating: PG (for action and rude humor)
Run Time: 91 min.
Directors: Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Allison Janney, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan, Geoffrey Rush, Jennifer Saunders, Steve Carell
It’s not even mid-July and already the summer movie season has soured. With last week's Terminator Genisys and now this week's Minions, a summer that started with better-than-expected sequels (the R-rated Mad Max: Fury Road and PG-13-rated Jurassic World) has settled into a summer of disappointing franchise entries.
Lackluster sequels aren't unusual—they're the rule, not the exception—but because Minions is aimed at a younger audience, the dissatisfaction in this case feels all the more despicable.
Minions predates the Despicable Me stories in which the grown-up Gru devises devious schemes with the help of those yellow, big-eyed goofballs called minions. This origin story about the little troublemakers begins with the title creatures as single-cell organisms who, by the time of the dinosaurs, have evolved into a form we recognize. But the minions can’t fulfill their potential without a villainous partner to bring out their worst. Latching on to the most despicable master they can find, the minions prove too much for a fearsome dinosaur and the likes of Napoleon and Count Dracula.
The story hurtles through time, settling in 1968, the year that our three minion protagonists—Bob, Kevin and Stuart—attempt to end the minions' sense of purposelessness by finding a new master to serve. But the problem with the film is obvious and established long before they make contact with femme fatale Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock, The Heat): these little fellas don't just need any old villain in order to thrive. They need Gru. And Gru needs the minions.
The most enjoyable moments from the earlier films included the minions assisting Gru, so it was natural that the creators would latch on to the lovable sidekicks for their own feature. The problem is that Bob, Kevin and Stuart don't have much to do besides speak silly Minion-ese to one another (no subtitles are required to figure out what they're saying) while traveling to England and Orlando, among other places.
The filmmakers know that the minions themselves aren't robust enough characters to sustain a feature-length running time, so writer Brian Lynch (Puss in Boots) has them catch a ride with Madge (Allison Janney, Juno) and Walter (Michael Keaton, Birdman) Nelson to a villain convention in Florida. Soon the little yellow creatures have latched onto Scarlet, who enlists them in a scheme to steal the Queen of England’s crown.
No one expects grand storytelling from a Despicable Me spinoff, but we do expect to laugh—heartily, as we did (at least a few times) during the first two Despicable Me films. Minions, by contrast, barely does enough to raise a smile, much less a decent laugh, during its episodic, scattershot 91 minutes.
The story gives us three minions as main characters, when it should have settled on just one as its main focus. Even its villains are too numerous. There's Scarlet, but there’s also her husband, Herb (Jon Hamm, Million Dollar Arm), as well as the oddball Nelson crew. The movie throws in the Queen (Jennifer Saunders, Coraline), a professor (Steve Coogan, Philomena) and—perhaps most off-putting—some quick images of people preparing to rob a bank and a finale that includes a chainsaw-wielding bad guy. Was that the filmmakers' idea of a family-friendly finale?
It matters little by that late point in the film, which has failed up to then to charm, or—imagine!—delight. Minions is a major misfire that never gels. It's less a story than a series of gags, very few of which (if any) work.
Who would've thought that the little yellow creatures who produced so many goofy gags in the first two Despicable Me movies would, given their own story, leave viewers stone-faced? Minions isn't just disappointing—it's baffling. It's also best forgotten—and the sooner the better.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Language/Profanity: “screwed it up”; “I hate you”
- Drinking/Smoking/Drugs: Drinking in a pub
- Sex/Nudity: Minion’s goggles behind a sweater fill out the chest area of a female disguise; a minion pretends he’s kissing someone; a minion in a thong; guards slap their own bottoms
- Violence/Crime: Minions seek the “most despicable master” they can find; a dinosaur falls to its death off screen; a bear eats a man off screen; a planned bank heist; a collection of stolen art, guitars and other goods; a block of ice knocks out an abominable snowman; Scarlet is an uber-villain; a mission to steal the Queen of England’s crown; the keeper of the crown hits minions with a cane; a chainsaw wielding villain; Scarlet points a gun at the minions; a dungeon master attempts to torture the minions, but traditional torture methods fail; a chandelier falls on a character’s head
- Religion/Marriage/Morals: Story starts with minions living with dinosaurs prior to the dawn of man
Publication date: July 9, 2015