“[D]estined to only satisfy little kids.”

by Steve Pulaski

Watching Minions, the latest installment in the Despicable Me franchise, is like going to the finest restaurant in town and expecting an overpriced appetizer to fill you up so much so that a main course isn’t even necessary. The Minions, the now-ubiquitous secondary characters from the aforementioned franchise, played second banana (no pun intended) to supervillain Gru and other characters, and while they provided for a cute, quickwitted diversion, forcing them into the forefront to maintain a feature-length spotlight was no doubt a daunting task for the writers and directors of this project. There’s little chance that five years ago, a spinoff film of these small, yellow, pill-like creature would’ve even been a thought in an animator’s mind.

Minions was a movie coming from a mile away. Despicable Me 2 hinted at its inevitable existence early on, with its teaser trailer focusing entirely on the creatures and carrying the characters over to the forefront of the film’s marketing campaign. Furthermore, the amount of Minion merchandise, with everything from stuffed animals, Lego knockoffs, and Tic-Tacs being made in celebration of the film, comes close to the sickening level of franchising that Pixar’s Cars did. While even a hardened cynic would find it difficult not to at least crack a smile at the cuteness and insane likability of these little creatures, a ninety-minute affair with these rascals proves to be a muchness.

The prelude to the film, most of which included in the theatrical trailer, bears some of the funniest, most relevant humor of the entire film. We see how Minions have inhabited the planet long before human beings, with one goal in mind – “serve the most despicable master they could find.” The Minions worked for everyone, be it Dracula, a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Egyptian Pharaohs, and even Napoleon, all of whom wound up tragically killed at the fault of the Minions. Finally, after unintentionally killing their last master, the Minions set up their village in Antarctica, serving nobody else but themselves. This works for a little while, but the Minions gradually become aimless and disinterested in life, rapidly losing their ability to function.

Minions
Directed by
Kyle Balda & Pierre Coffin
Cast
Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton
Release Date
10 July 2015
Steve’s Grade: D+


One brave Minion, Kevin (voiced by co-director Pierre Coffin, as all the Minion characters are), stands before the Minions to see who, if any, will venture out to unknown parts to return with a master that all the Minions can serve. When the roly-poly rebel Stuart is selected, in addition to the sweet and simple Bob, the trio set out to find their master, eventually getting word of a large gathering of villains at “Villain-Con,” an annual convention. They hear of Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), the evilest female supervillain in all the land, and make it their prime mission to serve her and all her needs upon visiting the convention.

When you’re in the company of sweet, primitive little yellow cylinders that bask in their own naivete and speak a combination of languages amongst gibberish, it doesn’t take much to realize that this film will undoubtedly inspire a few smiles and chuckles. However, sporadic smiles and chuckles do not usually amount to very good films, and because the Minions were once secondary characters that did just that, and are rather limited characters in a narrative sense, it’s difficult for them to break out and be much more.

Because the Minions can’t speak in a manner that we humans can decipher, the story must be kept simple and linear, something that DreamWorks does to a fault here. This is a film, I feel, that is destined to only satisfy little kids, who are overjoyed that this film doesn’t bear the kind of emotional and narrative weight Pixar’s Inside Out did. The simplicity of the story, again, allows for a handful of cute moments, and some remarkably limber comedic setups, but once you realize how light, airy, and forgettable the film’s characters and aura is, it’s then Minions begins to fade from your mind before the end credits even begin to roll.