I’ve said it before several times on this site: I’m a fan of the minions. I’m not sure what it is about them. Their bright color, their crazy shapes, their different configurations, their voices, their nonsense language, their infectious laugh? Whatever it is, I can’t get enough of them… so a feature film seemed like a no-brainer. Surely they could carry a 90 minute movie?

minion1Minions, it turns out, have been on the planet longer than humans, and their goal in life is to find the biggest bad guy they can to serve. Throughout history they’ve worked with some of the worst of the worst. But by the 1960s the minion tribe has run out of masters and been forced to live in a frozen cave where they barely seem to find the energy to go on with their purposeless lives. That’s when three minions decide to strike out on their own, find a new villain, and save their tribe.

That synopsis actually sounds pretty good, to me at least. Unfortunately it is just the setup for the film and takes maybe the first ten minutes to get through. They eventually find a new criminal mastermind in Scarlett Overkill, who really wants to be the Queen of England.

Like the Despicable Me movies from which it was spun off, Minions does some things very well.

The main voice acting choices were perfect. Sandra Bullock as Scarlet Overkill and Jon Hamm as her husband Herb could not have been better suited to their characters. Their designs were interesting and fun too. And I loved the relationship between them.

Music has a big role in the film, setting the mood or as comedic fodder. And as usual it’s all well chosen and also fitting within the time and places. This outing includes songs from The Who, The Kinks, The Turtles, the musical Hair, and, appropriately, Donovan’s Mellow Yellow.

minion2As should be the norm from the major studios, the animation was very good. And like the rest of the films in the franchise it was filled with lots of entertaining villain gear which has to be a lot of fun to brainstorm in the writers’ room. Setpieces like a chase scene through London, a convention panel in Orlando, and a search in New York were all well done and memorable as well.

However, it also shared some of the same problems with Despicable Me.

The biggest issue was the scattershot plot that could never decide what the focus of the story was, zipping from one idea to the next. Main character motivations changed haphazardly. Being charitable, some storylines seem to be written purely to setup a joke. Being maybe more honest, those storylines seem to be written purely as filler.

And perhaps most unforgivably of all, it just wasn’t that funny. Yes, there was humor. But not nearly as much as you would have expected. I suspect a major cause of that could be something I mentioned in a previous review of Despicable Me: giving away all of the best bits in the commercials. Every time the movie started building to something good, I already knew how it was going to end. There were almost no surprises and not a lot of jokes I hadn’t seen already.

Minions is definitely in the Despicable Me camp — great performances, always musically interesting, somewhat entertaining, sometimes funny, a little bit of heart, but with a lot of untapped potential making the whole thing ultimately disappointing. I’m still a minion fan, but instead of feature length I think these little guys would be better served doing short films.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?

Universal, Illumination
July 10, 2015
91 minutes
Rated PG
directed by Pierre Coffin & Kyle Balda