From a critic who despised "Despicable Me", and could not be bothered to see the sequel, "Despicable Me 2", it is not surprising that I loathe its prequel, "Minions". Universal Pictures/Hollywood is so hard up for new ideas that, one-too-many times, someone feels a need to go back to the old well.
Though the first few minutes of "Minions" are rather amusing --- from the beginning of time, these little yellow creatures have unwittingly been unable to keep their masters --- it quickly devolves into the same mean-spiritedness which abounded in "Despicable Me".
With their latest catastrophe and leader gone, the group becomes lethargic and depressed. But one minion, Kevin, devises a plan to go out into the world to search for a new, evil master to serve. Accompanied by Stuart and little Bob (all three voiced by Pierre Coffin, who also co-directs), they forge their way to New York City circa 1968.
Upon learning of a villain convention in Orlando, Florida, the trio hitches a ride with a gun-toting, bank-robbing family, and end up the new minions for the first-ever super-villain, Scarlett Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock).
Thankfully "Minions" is narrated by Geoffrey Rush, with his rather charming Australian accent. The diminutive yellow guys do not speak English, but a garbled language referred to as Minionese, which is headache-inducing at best. Much of the story is related through their slapstick and giant eyes --- a tiresome process one wishes would be over much sooner than it was.
I began looking at my watch less than an hour in.
Forgive me for sounding preachy, but, seriously, a car full of guns used by parents and children alike, to rob a bank, and shoot at police cars? I am appalled. This is NOT an R-rated comedy --- this is a film for children. Is this really what we want them to be watching --- and thinking that it's a cool idea to shoot at people? Don't we have enough of this in our daily lives already?
Another egregious error of "Minions" is its lack of humor. The storyline, which began funny enough, doesn't hold up. Scarlett Overkill wants Queen Elizabeth's crown --- and Kevin, Stuart and Bob to get it for her. Much insanity ensues that simply isn't entertaining --- stupid, maybe --- but not enjoyable.
I was stunned by how lackluster Bullock's voice over turned out. Her inflections seemed off, and her patter was not nearly as demonstrative as necessary. Alas --- her character is boring. The rest of the cast isn't even worth mentioning, though Jon Hamm, who voices Scarlett's groovy husband, Herb Overkill, is acceptable. He's just so moronic.
The one outstanding feature of "Minions" is the fabulous '60's soundtrack. With original music from The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and The Who, just to name a few, it was almost worth the 91 minutes of torture. Nah --- just go buy the CD or pull out your old albums.
However, if you must go because of your children, whatever, at least stay all the way through the credits. The best 3-D effects come then. I'll NEVER understand that logic!
Opinion: Don't Bother!
In a mostly hit-and-miss affair, "Minions" is a prequel to the "Despicable" films, as the little yellow fireplugs, for lack of a better term, search for the next villain they can serve. With Geoffrey Rush narrating, "Minions" reprises those past evildoers who have been vanquished as a result of the minions' collective capacity for chaos and ineptitude.
T-Rex falls to a fiery death because one minion accidentally tips the boulder it's standing on; their caveman baddie is eaten by a bear when they provide him with a fly swatter to combat it; Egyptians are crushed by a pyramid because the minions' blueprint is upside down; Napoleon is blown away by a cannon because minions weigh it down before it discharges; and when they try to celebrate Count Dracula's 357th birthday by opening the drapes near his coffin --- well, we all know what happens to a vampire exposed to sunlight.
These first 25 minutes are sufficiently entertaining, but the movie bogs down after that, as the three minions --- Kevin, Stuart and Bob --- venture to Orlando and Villain-Con 1968 where they become enamored with Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock), and designate her as their next villainous leader. They all end up in London because Scarlett covets the crown of Queen Elizabeth. Accompanied by her goofy husband, Herb (Jon Hamm), the movie is relegated to a series of fight sequences, which filmmakers can't seem to avoid.
I would have liked more clever bits like the billboard in 1968 New York City proclaiming Richard Nixon as a man you can trust. Or the sequence with Queen Elizabeth, temporarily sans her crown, rubbing elbows with the locals in a bar and downing several beers. While that may be slightly irreverent to the Brits, I imagine their ire may be raised when parts of Buckingham Palace are blown to bits, or the Royal Guards sport minion-type overalls.
Minion-speak tends to get old, although maybe not for the little ones. The occasional English helps to break up the monotony, along with their gestures and voice inflections. But the biggest problem with the film is the lack of a true villain. Scarlett is drawn more like a brunette version of Cinderella than the super-villainess she is supposed to be, and Bullock's voice-over isn't treacherous enough. Hamm is given ho-hum dialogue and his voice is not distinctive. Michael Keaton and Allison Janney are Walter and Madge Nelson, a family of bank robbers who pick up the minions en route to Orlando and Villain-Con. As Jeanne rightly objects, too much emphasis on violence and gunplay mark this segment.
Filmed in 3-D, "Minions" doesn't distinguish itself with this ploy until after the closing credits. That's when the T-Rex reappears, bubbles appear to linger over the audience, and Bob's pet rat seems to be peering over the movie screen. Unfortunately, by this time, 99% of our screening crowd had exited the theater.
"Minions" does feature a "groovy" soundtrack, with classics by '60's favorites The Beatles, Stones, Box Tops, Kinks, Turtles and The Who, to name a few. And Donovan appropriately closes out the film with his hit "Mellow Yellow". But it's not enough to overcome the movie's lesser elements.
Opinion: Wait for DVD