The evil genius Gru (voiced by Steve Carrel) and his loyal and haphazard minions became a global success with the emergence of Despicable Me in 2010 and its sequel three years later. A large part of the films’ pleasure was provided by the now familiar little yellow poppets with goggle eyes and denim overalls, who hardly spoke. So, it only seemed like a matter of time before they would get their own gig.
The minions are ageless and without a specific language, although in Minions they are more readily understood because the occasional English word slips out here or there. Importantly, they remain subversive and childlike and the comedy is still more visual than verbal. We go back to the dawn of time when the minions first followed the most nefarious bad guy they could, in this case the most ferocious dinosaurs. And as the story would have it, they couldn’t but help themselves in inadvertently orchestrating their master’s downfall. It was then a case of latching on to the next worst creature and so on and so forth. Basically, they practiced villain hopping. Even Count Dracula gets a look in. It is, indeed, a very clever back-story.
Eventually, when one tyrant after another is eliminated, the little yellow mischief-makers find themselves in London. It is the Swinging Sixties and they are trailing the coattails of the world’s first female super villain, Scarlett Overkill (the voice of Sandra Bullock). She wants to become Queen of England no less and engages the minions as her henchmen.
The film concentrates its energies on three of her yellow followers in particular. Kevin is the big brother, and if he weren’t around, the others would have ceased to exist long ago. Stuart is the rebellious guitar-playing teenager type and Bob is the wide-eyed innocent who is so excited to help out, but then gets distracted.
The best parts of Minions come at the start and the end. I greatly appreciated the way the filmmakers managed to effectively turn the movie into a prequel to Despicable Me.
It was also important for the three key characters to each have their own distinct personalities, all voiced by Pierre Coffin. Minions also features the vocal talents of Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan and Jennifer Saunders; while Geoffrey Rush serves as the narrator.
I regard the picture as good rather than great, as the chuckles tended to tail off in the middle section of the movie, when I noted little audience reaction. Mind you, it has a strong soundtrack and enough amusement and hijinks to keep us engaged if not belly laughing throughout.
Fans of the original will no doubt flock to see the latest installment, which is again directed by Pierre Coffin (yes, the voice of the three key minions), this time in tandem with Kyle Balda (who co-directed Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax). Written by Brian Lynch (Hop), Minions scores a 6½ out of 10.
Director: Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin
Cast: (Voices of) Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin, Katy Mixon, Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm
Release Date: 18 June 2015
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television