When it comes to comedy, yellow is the new black. That’s the tone of the humour in this prequel to the Despicable Me movies, and the torture chamber scene and Villain-Con are definitely some of the best. These “adorable little freaks” stole the show in the preceding movies, which is exactly why they received a stand-alone movie. However, this time around there is no show to steal.
A story in search of a plot, this is the kind of movie best enjoyed if you have no brain. If you are blessed with one, you’ll have to spark up a doobie to enjoy this, as it’s the 21st century’s answer to a stoner movie. Move aside Cheech and Chong, it’s Kevin, Bob and Stuart’s turn in the limelight.
With little imagination and even less story, it is an insult to believe it’s one of those animations geared purely at children. Many of the Hollywood animation successes enjoyed by children and adults alike are hits because they are a perfect blend of drama, comedy, action and heart. Children may not be able to appreciate the dark humour in Minions, but there is little else to keep them entertained.
Despicable Me taught us that minions speak a garbled gobbledygook of English, Spanish and nonsense, and movies such as Wall-E, The Triplets of Belleville, and countless shorts prove that you don’t need words to tell a story. But seeing as how this story lacks passion, the minions’ language, while giggle-worthy at times, is mostly degrading. Besides which, the film cops out and relies on a narrator to provide some form of narrative structure with a pro- and epilogue.
Said narrator is Geoffrey Rush, which brings me to my pet peeve about animated Hollywood movies since about the mid ‘90s: the need to bill voice artists in the opening title sequence and splatter their names all over posters. Since that time, celebrities have dominated the genre in Hollywood; and in Minions most of them make no effort to create a character, merely sounding like themselves.
The characters they portray even bear a resemblance to them. Scarlet Overkill and her husband are unquestionably modelled after Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm, and the latter loses an opportunity to show that he is capable of being more than a mad man.
Their presence is an affront to both voice artists and animators – the former robbed of work, the latter of the chance to create. Due credit must therefore be given to Steve Carell and Russell Brand for their work in the Despicable Me movies, for actually doing justice to the art of voice work.
It may seem that my expectations were too high; this is, after all, a movie about a bunch of unspecified yellow beings looking for an evil master. But I went into The Lego Movie with low expectations and was delightfully surprised at the thoughtful characterisation, slick humour and social commentary, not to mention the visual mastery – proving that you can create a good story, even when its source is arbitrary.
Minions is not without its good points. Set in 1968 London, there is a hark back to the era portrayed in great moments such as channel hopping through The Saint and Bewitched, and glimpsing The Beatles on their famous zebra crossing. However, like much else in the movie, the theme is not fully developed and mostly thrown in as an afterthought by stuffing in snatches of The Doors, The Who, The Rolling Stones and as much other ‘60s music that was on hand.
Kudos must be given to Scarlet’s stop-motion bedtime story, in which Kevin, Stuart and Bob find themselves cast as the three little pigs to Scarlet’s wolf. It is gorgeously rendered, gleefully wicked and aptly set to Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.
As far as characterisation goes, the title characters may be “pill-shaped” and unintelligible, but they are far more developed than their human counterparts. Considering that there an uncountable amount of minions and a handful of humans, it shows just how little meat there is on the bones of the script’s people.
The stand-out minion is definitely Bob, an over-eager, over-energised minion who joins the dull hero Kevin and rock-star wannabe Stuart on their quest for a new evil master. Since they live to serve evil, Bob’s affection towards objects both animate and inanimate makes little sense, but is endearing nevertheless.
The obscure adventures Kevin, Bob and Stuart have as they try to serve Scarlet Overkill are quite precious in themselves; as are the efforts of the rest of the minions to find England. These disjointed gems only prove that this movie would have worked better as a succession of humourous shorts, instead of the yellow-hued, money-making turd that was squeezed out instead.
Originally published on Dinner and a Movie.
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