The little yellow things from Despicable Me now have their own film, Minions. Their banana shtick is fun for a while—but it’s not enough to sustain an entire feature film.
Things start out funny enough, with a brief history of the Minions since the beginning of time. They’ve always wanted to be henchmen, and they are attracted to bad guys. We meet a lot of their former, unlucky bosses (Dracula, T-Rex, Napoleon, etc.). They wind up settling up north, worshipping the abominable snowman, when three of them (Stuart, Kevin and Bob) decide to head out on a journey to look for a new master.
Their travels take them to New York in 1968—which happens to be the year of my birth, and arguably one of the worst years in American history. The pop-culture references when they first arrive, including a fantastic Richard Nixon billboard and The Dating Game, are well done. The movie has a cool Mad Magazine vibe going for it in its first half.
However, things start going off the rails when the three minions leave New York for Orlando, Fla., where they seek out the world’s greatest villainous, Scarlet Overkill (the voice of Sandra Bullock), at something akin to Comic-Con for villains. She has some cockamamie scheme for the minions to steal the queen of England’s crown, co they all travel to England—where things get even wackier.
Perhaps the best thing in the movie is the queen (Jennifer Saunders), who is portrayed as a happy-go-lucky goofball, and who remains good-natured even when she loses her crown and the throne to Overkill due to a technicality. In fact, the film lights up when the queen is in the room; it could’ve used more of her.
As for the Minions themselves, they get a little grating after the first 45 minutes. The banana joke is funny the first seven times or so, but it grows a little tired around the 1,756th time. They speak that strange Minions gibberish, and that, too, is funny for a little while, but trying to figure out what they are saying eventually gets a little exhausting. When I could figure out what they were sort of saying … well, it just wasn’t that funny.
By the time one of the Minions grows to the size of King Kong and terrorizes London, many adult eyes had glazed over. The opening sequences that included things older people would know about prove to be a tease: Minions is strictly a kiddie affair for most of its running time.
The screening I saw had plenty of kids guffawing—and that’s really what this thing is supposed to do, right? It’s supposed to make kids laugh and give them something to drive their parents crazy with for the next few months. Parents: Start gearing up to buy the large variety of Minions toys sure to be assaulting stores in the next few months.
Bullock’s supervillain isn’t all that interesting, and neither is her husband (voiced by Jon Hamm). Michael Keaton and Allison Janney take part in one of the film’s more amusing sequences, as parents who take their children on armed robberies.
The film does have some sick fun with the back-history of the Minions. Most of their masters before Gru (Steve Carell’s character in Despicable Me) are accidentally killed. They manage to get a caveman eaten by a big bear; they blow up Dracula; they crush the abominable snowman, etc. Seeing powerful and nefarious male figures as no match for the Minions is good for a laugh or two.
I won’t spoil any surprises, but the film does feature a big cameo. Actually, you can probably guess who it is. Want me to tell you? Nah … screw it. I won’t tell you.
As for the future of the Despicable Me series, a third film featuring Carell’s Gru is slated for 2017. However, given the huge box-office take of Minions in its opening weekend, the little yellow guys have more drawing power than Gru.
Minions is playing at theaters across the valley.