July 20, 2015 Leave a comment
Having inadvertently caused the death of just about every villain in history, the minions find themselves exiled in Antarctica where they slowly unravel without an evil master to serve. It is up to Kevin (Pierre Coffin), Stuart (Coffin again) and Bob (you guessed it) to search the planet for a new purpose for their people, and after accidentally accessing a secret villain-centric television channel set their sights on Villain-Con in what is destined to become Orlando, Florida. They’re soon hired by Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), a villainess who wants nothing more than to be crowned Her Majesty the Queen of England. Things go awry when Bob is crowned in her place, prompting Scarlet to first disown and then declare war on minion-kind.
The continued success of Universal Picture’s Despicable Me franchise is as inexplicable as it is undeniable: the minions are everywhere, even Broughty Ferry. Quite why the characters have taken off in the way they have despite being neither cool or particularly cute is impossible to say. The first film barely warranted a sequel, being little more that a pale imitation of DreamWorks Animation’s far superior and still commendably singular Megamind, let alone a spin-off origin story devoted to its most irritating characters. The minions are no less intolerable here, left to headline a film despite being unable to speak English or get through a single scene without making you want to groan or sigh out loud. They’re not funny, and they’re certainly not clever.
This is children’s entertainment at its laziest and most cynical, simply transporting a single gag — or catchphrase, in the case of the minions’ collective obsession with bananas — to England and hoping that the change of scenery is enough to compensate for a distinct lack of new material. What follows is a convoluted, contrived and often incoherent string of incidents that lack the intelligence or imagination of something like A Town Called Panic or even the most recent Spongebob SquarePants movie, and instead falls back on the sort of asinine idiocy that gives slapstick a bad name. Through in a couple of pernicious stereotypes — both gender and cultural in nature — and you get a real sense of just how insipid Minions is, not just as a comedy but as children’s entertainment.
In fact, if it weren’t for Geoffrey Rush’s narration Minions would be very nearly indefensible. Charming, companionable and genuinely amusing, his voice over carries the viewer through an extended montage of the minions’ various misadventures with the likes of Dracula and the dinosaurs. His introduction “they go by many names: Dave, Carl, Paul, Mike…” is about as funny as the film gets, and with the exception of a family hold-up on the way to Orlando with the Nelsons is likely the last time you’ll smile for the rest of the feature. The only other consolation is how well-rendered it all looks; the design of the minions is as crude as ever, but some of the animation — particularly the cityscapes and set pieces — are really quite impressive. Presumably the animators lost interest in the characters and focused instead on the less offensive inanimate objects.
It’s never clear what the studio is hoping to accomplish with Minions — more an exercise in maintaining brand awareness and marketing merchandise than making people laugh, setting it firmly behind last year’s Penguins of Madagascar in terms of entertainment value — but if there were any creative ambitions going into production there’s certainly no evidence of it on release. Do yourself a favour and watch Song of the Sea instead.