Cute Only Goes So Far
The best part of the Despicable Me series has arguably been the minions, the little yellow henchman of the villain Gru who desperately want to help but always seem to hinder instead. When their role was stepped up in Despicable Me 2, it seemed obvious that they were destined to get their own film, and so Minions has finally arrived.
So how do you get a whole movie out of a group of creatures with an extremely limited vocabulary? The honest answer is that you don’t, really, but that doesn’t stop the filmmakers from trying. A prologue shows the minions’ adventures from throughout history, from the time of the dinosaurs to their interacting with historical figures like Napoleon as they search for a proper villain for whom to be henchmen.
The bulk of the film is set in the late 1960s, as three of the minions — Kevin, Stuart and Bob (all voiced by co-director Pierre Coffin) — stumble upon a villain convention at which Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock) is the headliner. When the trio accidentally proves its worth to her, she takes them under her wing so they can help her dastardly plan: stealing the crown jewels from the Queen of England.
There is, of course, a reason that sidekicks are called sidekicks. If you spend too much time with them, their endearing quirks can turn into annoying ones. When it comes to the minions, it’s not so much that their weird noises and oddly multilingual utterances are bothersome; it’s that they become repetitive and thus quickly lose their charm.
The plot of the film is fine, but there’s nothing utterly compelling about it. Other than the minions’ antics, there’s once again a real sense of fun missing from the film. The film’s biggest conflict, the one between the minion trio and Scarlett Overkill, lacks the requisite punch, and so it feels like the story is just going through the motions until the villain gets her comeuppance.
In order to make up for the film’s failings (or to distract from them), the filmmakers have stacked the voice talent with big names. In addition to Bullock, they roped in Jon Hamm as her husband, Michael Keaton and Allison Janney as the heads of a villainous family, Steve Coogan for a couple of minor roles, and Geoffrey Rush as the narrator. As is usually the case, the presence of these stars makes no noticeable difference in the quality of the film one way or the other.
With the box office still being dominated by the stellar Inside Out, which appeals to both kids and adults, it’s difficult not to view Minions as anything more than a lightweight offering. That might be okay some other time, but it just doesn’t cut it now.