Friday, July 10, 2015

Minions



With Jurassic World and Furious 7 already tearing up the box office, it's crazy to think that Universal Studios still has its Despicable Me cash cow to bank on this summer with this weekend's release of Minions. For years now, the high water mark of animated sidekicks has been the little yellow... whatever they are... and they were always a diverting highlight of both Despicable Me films. Given the clever premise that was laid out in the trailers, I went into this screening with a certain amount of optimism. Sure, this wasn't going to reach the highs of Pixar's latest and greatest, Inside Out, but I was hoping it would at least reach the bar set by the previous films in this series.


For many years, minions have been travelling the world, moving from villain master to villain master. This typically yields unsavory results for their leader, who usually falls victim to a tragic pratfall resulting in their demise. Secluding themselves to a isolated cave somewhere in the arctic, the minions gradually fall into a state of deep depression, unable to fulfill their ultimate purpose of serving an evil villain. Finally, having had enough of their sad existence, three brave minions (Kevin, Stuart, and Bob) set out to find a new master for the group to follow. After a long, arduous journey across the ocean, they arrive in New York City, where they see a television program advertising for a secret gathering of evil-doers called "Villain Con" in Orlando, FL. Excited at this prospect, they hitch a ride with a family heading that direction, eager to meet the infamous Scarlet Overkill...

I'm going to keep this review relatively brief, as there isn't really a whole lot to talk about here. The first thing that I realized at about the twenty minute mark was that it was a mistake to put the minions on their own. There isn't enough depth to their characters to justify a feature-length film based entirely on sidekicks whose speech we can't even understand. This separated amusement made them perfect background characters to Gru and his adopted daughters, but they just can't carry a movie on their own. It's disappointing, because I was completely won over by the marketing for this film, but they made the cardinal error of showing all of the best scenes in the trailers... among other things...

Obviously this film wasn't intended for my demographic, which is good because it really doesn't appeal to adults. The humor isn't just slapstick, it's a little crude as well, with overweight security guards not only stripping down for a dance number, but slapping each other's butts like they're auditioning for Magic Mike XXL. There's more than a hint of desperation in Minions to make the kiddos laugh, but I really don't think Universal is too worried about its quality. Regardless of the reviews this film gets, it's going to make them a ton of money (probably way more than it deserves, with the likes of Inside Out still in theaters). There are enough alternative options for family viewing that hopefully the stupid-comedy-for-the-sake-of-it films like this won't be perpetuated.

This movie isn't all bad, despite the impression I'm giving in my review. Being set in the 1960's there are plenty of great songs being played throughout the movie, and some of the jokes actually work pretty well. I was hoping for a better performance from Sandra Bullock, but with the script she was given I can't see how she could have improved it much. Overall, it's just a forgettable family film that only the least discerning audience members (read: children) will really cling to. I put this in the same category as Monster's University as a disappointing and unnecessary prequel to a series I enjoyed. It leaves no taste in your mouth, so rather than shelling out fifty bucks to take your kids to it this weekend, just stay home and watch Despicable Me again. I can't say it was bad... I was mostly ambivalent to it, to be honest... but I also can't give Minions any better than a two and half star rating. Just another opportunity for originality and clever storytelling that was forfeited for the almighty dollar.

MINIONS is rated PG for action and rude humor