CINEMA RELEASE: MINIONS
Director: Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Jennifer Saunders, Geoffrey Rush
Classification: PG (Mild Animated Violence)
Review by Peter Gray
Much like the penguins from the ‘Madagascar’ series graduated from fan-favourite support players to full-fledged headliners (in the inventively titled ‘Penguins of Madagascar’ released earlier in the year) those lovable, indecipherable little creatures that stole Steve Carell’s thunder in the ‘Despicable Me’ films have been granted solo rights in their own imaginatively entitled feature – ‘Minions’. Despite the script consisting mostly of gibberish for the titular creations, this colourful piece benefits from its well-crafted visual gags and 1960’s atmospheric setting – not to mention a stellar soundtrack that manages to minion-ise all of the era’s biggest tunes.
Though we all know ‘Despicable Me’s lead world dominator Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is the eventual caretaker for the Minions, their spin-off details the arduous trek they embarked upon to arrive at their ultimate destination which, as this movie proves, began in the stone-ages with dinosaurs and cavemen their initial focus of worship; apparently it’s the Minions duty to serve the most villainous of creatures. As they tiptoe up the food chain over time (which includes a rather amusing pit-stop involving Count Dracula) it comes to a vote that born leader Stuart, dream-rockstar Kevin and infant Bob (all voiced by co-director Pierre Coffin) will set out to find the remaining Minions an evil leader they can serve in peace. This plan leads them to New York City where a rest amongst a department store introduces them to a villain convention being held in Orlando, an amalgamation of all the top evil-doers in the world with the star attraction being that of Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), the world’s first female super villain who just so happens to be on the look-out for a new group of henchmen to assist her in her diabolical plan to steal the crown jewels from Queen Elizabeth II (Jennifer Saunders), effectively making her the ruler of England in the process.
It’s a premise that holds enough weight to flesh out a feature but unfortunately ‘Minions’ loses a bit of its footing in the latter stages of the film when Scarlet’s devotion to taking out the Minions themselves steals focus, and though young audiences will respond to the sights and sounds of explosions you can’t help but think there’s perhaps a few too many violent gags and sight pieces for a film aimed specifically at children. Bullock voices Scarlet with plenty of aplomb and vigour but her decline into full-blown mad woman is a little heavier than what the film should offer; the ‘Despicable Me’ films managed to tame Carell’s Gru more successfully. In addition to Bullock, the film is surprisingly well stacked with Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney and Geoffrey Rush all lending their vocal talents to proceedings; Keaton and Janney are especially enjoyable as a villain convention-bound married couple who have rather unorthodox views of what constitutes a family vacation.
Even with all that star-power ‘Minions’ works solely because of its namesake – an infectious group of naïve villains who just want to be loved. The fact that we can’t understand them doesn’t deter the film at all as their squeaky mumbles prove accessible on a much-larger scale bringing to mind a simpler form of comedy where laughs were derived from visual antics and a few choice sounds. With no underlying message to relay to young children or emotional arc to truly invest you, ‘Minions’ just exists to entertain, and in that mission they succeed ten-fold.
My rating: 3/5