Should I Watch..? Minions
What's the big deal?
Minions is an animated family comedy film released in 2015 and is a spin-off/prequel to the Despicable Me franchise. The film's cast stars Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Jennifer Saunders and co-director Pierre Coffin and sees three Minions leave their remote tribe to discover a new evil master to serve and fall under the spell of current supervillain supremo Scarlet Overkill. Despite mixed reviews, the film was a massive success at the box office - recouping its budget in its opening weekend in the US, it went on to take over $1.1 billion worldwide. It is the first non-Disney animated film to break the $1 billion barrier and only the third animated film in history to do so behind the equally ubiquitous Frozen and Toy Story 3.
What's it about?
Minions are small yellow creatures who have only ever existed to serve the most fearsome and villainous masters throughout history, usually with catastrophic results due to their innate clumsiness. Eventually, the Minions fled south to Antarctica and sought refuge in a massive cave and over time, evolved into their own society. But gradually, the lack of a big boss to serve lead to depression among their number until one day, brave Minion Kevin stood up and declared that he would search for a new boss for them to serve. Along with musically inclined Stuart and over-excitable Bob, the three of them set off and find themselves in New York in 1968.
Stumbling across a hidden commercial for Villain-Con in Orlando, Florida, the three of them head south and find themselves working for the most glamorous and dangerous femme fatale in the world, Scarlet Overkill. Scarlet's plan is to steal the crown of Queen Elizabeth II in London and declare herself ruler of the United Kingdom. But for Kevin, Stuart and Bob, their involvement in her schemes place themselves in danger...
Kevin / Stuart / Bob / Minions
Professor Flux / Tower Guard
Queen Elizabeth II
Kyle Balda & Pierre Coffin
Release Date (UK)
26th June, 2015
Animation, Comedy, Family
What's to like?
The Minions easily managed to steal the show in Despicable Me so it's understandable that they'd be given their own feature. Their powerful mix of slapstick humour, natural cuteness and barely understandable language makes Minions the perfect film for kids to enjoy. The film gets plenty of mileage from the three of them bumbling around New York and London and interacting with Sixties culture, despite the language barrier. The humour is a bit hit-and-miss but generally speaking, it makes the film quite amusing. It is also brilliantly animated in places, landscapes especially. The scenes set in London capture the feel of the capital well while the city-wide views seen at times are breath-taking.
One must feel sorry for co-director Coffin who provided the voices for each one of the 899 Minions in the picture including the lead three. It was a wise decision to keep the number of lead Minions to three as any more would have meant forgetting who was who - they do all look alike, after all. They are also efforts to hold some appeal left for adults but somewhat less than the likes of Pixar would have included. I actually enjoyed the opening scenes the most as the Minions played havoc with ancient Egyptians and Napoleon's troops. It does lose its way as the story begins proper but considering that the film is little more than a marketing gimmick hat appeals to kids then you have to say that it accomplishes its mission with aplomb.
- The language of Minions - Minionese - is made of up a variety of other languages like English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Indonesian, Hebrew, Portuguese and gibberish.
- This is the first movie in Sandra Bullock's career where she plays a baddie.
- At one point, the Minions interrupt the Beatles during their photoshoot for the Abbey Road album. However, the order is wrong - Paul McCartney (who famously walked in bare feet on the cover) is second across the manhole cover, not third as he appears on the actual cover.
What's not to like?
The movie does have some pretty big faults, unfortunately. Chief among them is Bullock who rarely convinces as Scarlet Overkill - the character feels weak compared to the likes of Gru or even Vector. Saunders and Hamm do a little better but the film's more concerned with the gibberish spouted by the Minions. The film's story also feels underwritten with the viewers having to work out what the Minions are saying to each other through their actions and facial expressions - subtitles would have been nice for us adults. At least the opening scenes had Rush's narration to fill in the blanks.
There is a sense of mild disappointment watching Minions, given how insanely popular it's proved. We are living in a golden age of animation where tradition and technology are used side-by-side to produce films that appeal to whole families and not just the younger viewers. The likes of Pixar have spoilt us with a steady stream of films like WALL•E, The Incredibles and Inside Out. All these films, and others, strike a delicate balancing act between providing entertainment to children and adults in equal measures but Minions concentrates purely on children and young, impressionable children at that. I suspect the reason for this is simply profit - children can apply enormous pressure on parents to buy them every example of Minion merchandise out there from clothes to curtains, toys to towels, bags to baking decorations. Judging by how prolific the Minions were immediately after the film's release, I reckon I'm closer to the truth than the film-makers would like to admit.
Should I watch it?
If you're a parent then the chances are, you've already seen this or are about to very shortly after so many months of badgering by your little angels. But you needn't worry - Minions is probably the best animated babysitter since Frozen and will probably have younger viewers clamouring for the latest merchandise. It isn't as well animated as a lot of the competition and the gibberish dialogue will cause most viewers to lose track of what's going on but it offers an enjoyable exercise in slapstick humour and goofy charm that you can just about recommend it.
Great For: children, Universal's profits, retailers
Not So Great For: adult viewers, the Bank of Mum & Dad, Despicable Me
What else should I watch?
Assuming you were looking for an animated film that wasn't aimed at toddlers then these days, you're spoiled for choice. Kung Fu Panda and its sequels offer viewers a trip through the book of martial-arts cliché but with the usual assortment of talking animals. The Lego Movie offers adults a nostalgic look back at their favourite building blocks whilst also offering kids plenty to inspire and entertain in equal measures. And Rango is a surreal blend of western and talking lizards with an all-star cast led by Johnny Depp.
But it's Pixar who have rightfully dominated the CG animation market ever since Toy Story way back in 1995. Not to say that Pixar don't occasionally pander to the child market as anyone who watched Cars 2 will testify. But they often strike solid gold whether it's with straight-up action adventures like The Incredibles, more thought-provoking fare like WALL•E or tearjerkers like Up. And sometimes, like Toy Story 3, they can be a blend of all three.
© 2016 Benjamin Cox