Minions (Kyle Balda/Pierre Coffin, 2015)
If you’re looking for a new family film to which to bring the little ones, look no further than Minions, a prequel (of sorts) to Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2. If you remember, the “minions” are those little yellow creatures – some one-eyed, some two-eyed, all with goggles – who serve the villain (of sorts) Gru. They speak in an Esperanto-like language in which certain phrases and words are distinguishable, but which otherwise sounds like gibberish (and they’re all voiced by co-director Pierre Coffin, who also co-directed the first two films). Ever wonder where they came from? No? Then don’t bother with this movie, unless you’re really bored. Yes? Then this is the flick for you!
Actually, you could see this film without knowing anything about its universe and still pass a relatively enjoyable 90 minutes. Though hardly a work of genius, it’s entertaining enough, and has one or two good jokes that made me laugh out loud, rather than just chuckle (my response to 95% of the proceedings). Other than the brilliant Inside Out (which you could always go see again), there’s not a whole lot out there right now for kids, so why not go see Minions? A ringing endorsement, I know!
In an opening sequence narrated by Geoffrey Rush (The Book Thief), we learn that the minions evolved to serve evil overlords, beginning back in the Jurassic Era. They have an unfortunate propensity to cause (unintentionally) the demise of their masters, and so are constantly, over the eons, on the lookout for a new “boss.” Flash forward to 1968, and they find themselves stuck in an ice cave with no such ruler, bored and listless. A particularly intrepid minion named Kevin (they all have single English names like this) decides that this just won’t do, and so gathers two volunteers – Stuart and Bob – to go in search of a new criminal mastermind in need of servants. Once in New York, they learn of a “Villain-con” convention about to happen in Orlando, and head down there, where they meet the baddest of the baddies, a woman named Scarlet Overkill, voiced by Sandra Bullock (Gravity). Soon, adventures and misadventures ensue as the proceedings move to London, all so that the film can play an extended joke on the royal family (a great joke, actually, as this is what made me laugh out loud; excuse me, LOL). It’s fun. It’s just not super fun.
Along for the ride on the voice-talent train are the likes of Jon Hamm (“Mad Men“), Allison Janney (“The West Wing“) and Michael Keaton (Birdman), though the only one who truly shines is Hamm, exceptionally funny as Scarlet Overkill’s hubby. Bullock is fine as the villainess, but nothing special (Angelina Jolie or, even funnier, Scarlett Johansson, as my colleague Linda DeLibero suggested, would have been better). The movie works when it works, and when it doesn’t its failure is fairly painless. Bring the children and be done with it.