Posted on July 9, 2015 at 5:16 pm

Copyright Dreamworks 2015
Copyright Dreamworks 2015

The Minions should pay a little less attention to villains and a little more to penguins. Like “Madagascar’s” penguins, “Despicable Me’s” yellow minions were comic relief characters who took the lead in follow-up features. But the Minions are not quite up to the level of their black and white counterparts. While “Penguins of Madagascar” was one of the funniest films for any age of last year, “Minions” is a reasonably diverting entertainment with some great visuals, some good ideas, and some missed opportunities. The Minions are an adorable concept, a cross between Oompa Loompas and marshmallow Peeps. But they speak in gibberish, which is more fun in smaller doses. And while this movie selects three of them out of the multitudes to be the focus of the adventure, their characters are not especially interesting and their personalities are not especially differentiated. The same is unfortunately true of most of the human characters as well.

And “Despicable Me” had Gru, and Gru had a nemesis to best, lessons to learn, and little girls to change his life. We miss that emotional and narrative heft in this film.

What we have instead is a cute origin story going back to the earliest life on Earth, with the minions evolving out of little yellow single-cell floating creatures. By the time they make it to land, their purpose has been established. They will seek out and support the greatest villains on the planet. But, the narrator (Geoffrey Rush) informs us, in tones suggesting a nature documentary, “Finding a boss was easy. Keeping one was not.” A T-Rex. An Egyptian Pharaoh. A vampire. Napoleon. They just don’t last, primarily because the Minions’ efforts to be helpful backfire. Almost literally.

The Minions retreat to the Arctic, and that takes care of a few more centuries. But they have no purpose. And so Kevin, Stuart, and Bob set off to find a new evil genius to support. It is 1968, and they arrive in New York City, to the sound of the Rolling Stones singing “19th Nervous Breakdown.” They find out that in pre-Disney Orlando, Florida, the upcoming Villain Con (cleverly modeled after Comic-Con) will give them a chance to meet the top bad guys of the world, especially superstar Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock). They hitch a ride along the way with a smiling suburban family (Michael Keaton and Allison Janney), who turn out to have more in common with the Minions than expected. And, when they pass the test failed by all the other criminals, Scarlet takes them on and assigns them the crime of the century — she wants them to steal Queen Elizabeth’s crown. Scarlett’s husband, Herb (Jon Hamm) serves as Q, giving out the gadgets, and then it’s off to the Tower of London.

Individual moments are charming and funny, and baby boomers will appreciate the 60’s references and soundtrack, which should do for “Hair,” Hendrix, and Donovan what “Guardians of the Galaxy” did for 70’s rock. But a bedtime story about the three little pigs only reminds us more pointedly of how much better the “three little kittens” bedtime story was in the first film.

NOTE: Stay through the very end of the credits for a funny song and dance and some wow-worthy 3D effects.

Parents should know that this film has comic, cartoon-style peril and mayhem (no one hurt), weapons, explosions, chases, thong underwear, and brief potty humor.

Family discussion: How should you decide what your purpose is and why is that important? Can you understand the Minions even though they are not speaking English, and, if so, how? What made Scarlet so mean, and why do so many people admire her?

If you like this, try: the “Despicable Me” movies and “Megamind”

Related Tags:


3D Animation Comedy Fantasy For the Whole Family Series/Sequel

2 Replies to “Minions”

  1. Taking my daughters to see it this weekend. Thanks for the heads up on the end credits scene.

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