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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Movie Review: #Minions

The pretty prequel loses steam after a hilarious opening, but the kids will love it.

Review by Matt Cummings

There's no denying the power of Illumination Entertainment's Despicable Me franchise as one of the most beloved by kids. Released in 2010, it gained a tremendous and nearly instant following, not because of Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell), but because of the Minions. Those yellow buffoons who utter incomprehensible words while doing insanely stupid things has led us to this point: their own standalone movie. As a movie, Minions is perhaps one of the most beautiful and realistic animated movies ever made, but you'll soon want to remove the batteries powering these idiots, as their shtick can't power an entire movie.

Revealing that the yellow rubber dudes are actually immortal, we follow their adventures as they try desperately to serve one madman after another, beginning with a T-Rex, then a caveman, and eventually Napoleon, all of whom they accidentally kill or depose, before deciding to strike out on their own. Unfortunately, Minions are followers not leaders and eventually their culture begins to collapse. Faced with the destruction of their people, Kevin, Stuart, and Bob (all voiced by Directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda) journey to 1968 New York to discover a new master to serve. There, they learn about the temptress Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), who wants them to steal Queen Elizabeth's crown to prove their loyalty. As word reaches the rest of the Minions, Overkill's ulterior motive is revealed, pitting the trio against her in a battle for England itself.

Minions isn't an awful movie, but it's not enduing either. It is one of the most beautiful and realistic animated films ever made: from chips in brickwork to the sheen of Overkill's hair and fur on a local sewer rat, you'd swear some of these scenes were recreated from real life. And with only a $75 million budget, it certainly makes the most of it. But it never elevates the Minions themselves, reducing them instead to seriously dumb super-villain slaves instead of some kind of cool, connected culture that actually achieved something prior to serving Gru.

Writer Brian Lynch never expands their story, content to throw this one into the time period without allowing us to revel in it. The singing of classic Monkeys and Beatles songs becomes too much after awhile, because the Minions are indiscernible as they perform what become 4-minute videos. Moreover, there's zero flavor behind their 1960's besides hippies and a few squares. We never gain an appreciation for the Minions as stewards of history, nor do they come across as anything more than bumbling fools.

Bullock is pretty entertaining as Overkill, but her husband Herb (John Hamm) never makes his presence known. Neither does Michael Keaton, the father to a criminal family that the Minions meet on their way to Villain-Con. Allison Janey fares slightly better as the mother, and the entire reveal is carried off pretty well as Kevin, Stuart, and Bob learn that this squarish-looking family has more up their sleeves.

Minions is not only the best-looking animated film of the year, it could make a case for best all-time. It's too bad the meandering second act and indiscernible language of the Minions leads to a tedious finale that nearly ruins the film. None of that will matter to the kids who will most likely eat the bumbling, farting, and general stupidity of the Minions right up. That's who this film is geared towards, and the resulting flood of box office and merchandising cash should cement a strong opening But I still don't like it.

Minions is rated PG and has a runtime of 91 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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