“Minions” is worse than despicable: 1.5/5
They’re called minions for a reason, because minions, henchmen, sidekicks, call them what you will, need someone to lean on, to depend on. An orc movie, a flying monkey movie, or a Stormtrooper movie would not work. “But why not?” says modern Hollywood,
“They’re popular characters. They sell shirts, toys, and action figures. Why shouldn’t we make a movie about them?” Because orcs need Sauron, winged monkeys need The Wicked Witch, and the Stormtroopers need Darth Vader. And the Minions need Gru, and without him, “Minions” doesn’t have a point.
This fault is actually pointed out by the movie itself. Early in “Minions”, the narrator (Geoffrey Rush) says that without a boss, the minions feel empty inside. Their lives have no purpose. And without the big baddie Gru, the villain/father voiced by Steve Carell in the two “Despicable Me” films, “Minions” feels empty, with no laughs, no charm, and no heart. All we are left with are the pathetic Minions, little creatures that start to get on your nerves around the 10-minute mark. It is truly a feat of strength to make a film that is both annoying and boring. However, “Minions”, against all odds, manages to be both.
I am going to be quite frank. I was not expecting much out of “Minions”, although I did enjoy the “Despicable Me” films quite a bit. I liked the relationship between Gru and the kids, and how he tried to juggle being a villain and being a father, while I, too, fell under the spell of these Minions because they knew how, and more importantly, when, to have a joke. The Minions were charming because they balanced the humor of the story while Gru carried the emotion of the films on his wide shoulders.
But still, as both a critic and a moviegoer, I went along when my 8 year-old sister told me we were going to see “Minions”. I needed something recent to review, and I was hoping for a fun experience with a couple of belly laughs, and to leave with a sense of enjoyment. However, I left with a strong desire to watch the “Despicable Me” movies. And to skip over the scenes focusing around the Minions. I think I’ve had enough of them for a couple of years.
The plot is as basic as they come. The Minions live to serve the baddest villain around. So when they cannot find someone to follow, three Minions named Kevin, Stuart, and Bob (all three voiced by the talented Pierre Coffin, who also co-directed the film) set out to find a new master. They end up in 1968 New York, a beautifully rendered setting, and they learn of Villain-Con, a convention in Orlando where all the great supervillains meet to show off their evil prowess and perhaps to find a couple of henchmen. The three Minions, of course, are intrigued, and they set off for Orlando.
Once they arrive, they find Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), the world’s most famous supervillain. They somehow land a job with her, and she hires them to steal Queen Elizabeth II (Jennifer Saunders)’s crown, so Scarlet and her husband Herb (Jon Hamm, in probably the funniest role of the movie) can rule England. Shenanigans ensue, many of which include Kevin, Stuart, and Bob shouting the word “banana” very loudly and subsequently falling on their faces.
It just doesn’t work. “Despicable Me” worked because it realized that there are only so many times that a Minion can punch another Minion and it will be funny. In “Minions”, the joke became exhausting before the plot of the film even started, which is a bad sign for a movie that is pretty much one big joke. The Minions’ jokes alone cannot carry this movie, and therefore the film does not know what is funny and what is not. Scarlet Overkill is not funny. Her character felt like a plot device, an excuse for the Minions to run around and shout their nonsense. She carried neither the emotion nor charm of Gru. I am not complaining about the work of Bullock; she does the best she can with this abysmal character.
In fact, all of the voicework is fine. Michael Keaton (fresh out of “Birdman”) and Allison Janney are fine as the father and mother of a bank-robbing family, and Jon Hamm is fantastic. However, that is not enough to save the film that consistently sets up potentially funny moments, but fails to deliver. There was a particularly promising scene, that, of course, was shown in the trailer, involving Herb and the three Minions where Herb is trying to interrogate the Minions, but his questionable methods keep failing. The scene starts out with a chuckle, showcasing some genuinely funny moments, but then it stops, having Herb give up and start dancing and singing with the Minions, demolishing the sense of frustration that made the scene funny. Maybe I missed the memo, but a violently threatening bedtime story isn’t funny. Same thing with a large chunk of ice fatally landing on the Yeti’s skull. I know I wasn’t laughing.
My feeling of annoyance was not shared all around. And I don’t mean the sizable amount of critics who enjoyed “Minions”, nor the giant box office gross it picked up. No, I am referring to the kids in the theater at which I viewed the film. Their laughter made me question my thoughts a small bit. Let’s face it, this is ultimately a kids movie, with the cheap fart jokes, slapstick, and bright animation that kids look for in a movie. So, is a movie still bad if it pleases its target audience, but no one else? Yes. Yes, it absolutely is.