Saturday, 19 March 2016

Minions

It’s fair to say the ‘Minions’ are one of the most powerful and valuable brands out there at the moment. You can’t go anywhere without seeing the little yellow guys plastered on clothes, toys, food, drink…they’re everywhere. The Despicable Me films from which they came were ridiculously successful, both critically and financially – Despicable Me 2 is the most profitable film in the 101-year history of Universal Studios – so it’s only natural that somebody thought “hey, let’s give them their own movie”. The money men at Universal were probably delighted by this idea, as Minions went on to make $1.1 BILLION worldwide, making it the 10th highest-grossing film of all time and the highest-grossing non-Disney animated film in the history of cinema. But, money aside – is the film actually any good?


Out now on DVD, Blu-Ray and Blu-Ray 3D, Minions is a mixed bag. It serves as a prequel to the Despicable Me films, showing how the Minions evolved from single-celled organisms into beings who exist only to serve villainous masters. We watch as they go through history, serving a T-Rex, caveman, Egyptian pharaoh, Dracula and Napoleon – but as they accidentally kill each one of them through incompetence, they become depressed. They isolate themselves from the world in a cave in Antarctica, but by 1968 become depressed by their aimless existence. Three minions; Stuart, Kevin and Bob, decide to go back out into the world to seek a new master and a new reason to live. This first chunk of the film is pretty entertaining, with some laugh-out-loud moments in the opening montage of historical Minion existence right up until their depression in Antarctica. But after this, the narrative suffers. There are amusing moments in the Minions’ adventure across America and England, but it is the introduction of the evil Scarlet and Herb Overkill (Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm, respectively) that brings the film down. The flatly-characterised and one dimensional pair slip the film into rather tedious waters, making it a lot more predictable and unoriginal than the unique opening would have you expect.


The main issue is that the Minions just can’t carry a film by themselves. As a sideshow in the Despicable Me films, they worked. Although I was never a fan of the franchise, I could see why they worked and hell, there were some funny moments in the DM films that made me chuckle. But here, putting them front and centre is exhausting for anyone over the age of 5. Liam Lacey of The Globe and Mail described the film as ‘a visual sugar rush for the preschool set’ and I don’t think I could put it any better. It’s the most hyperactively charged thing I’ve seen in a while, as these little yellow bastards blabber incessantly at each other in a completely gibberish, high-pitched language. They fall over, they slap each other, they laugh as they say ‘banana’ and ‘bottom’. Kids LOVE it. But if you’re an adult, you might get tired of the hijinks after the first 15 minutes. Maybe a TV series of Minions would work. They could twat around for 20 minutes at a time, not having to worry about story. They can slap each other and giggle and eat bananas and everyone will be happy. But 90 straight minutes of them doing that? It’s pretty painful. And the only salvation, Scarlet and Herb Overkill and the attempt at a narrative, only makes this worse by changing the tone to complete and utter predictability.

On the plus side, the colourful animation is a visual feast – especially in 3D. Sight gags make up the majority of the humour, especially as the Minions don’t speak English. This is where the film does shine, especially when our heroes reach New York City and London. The film looks stunning. Minions also features probably the finest soundtrack to ever grace a children’s film, purely there to put a smile on the otherwise miserable parents having to sit through the film. The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Kinks, The Who, The Beatles and Donovan all make appearances in the soundtrack and perfectly compliment the film’s Swinging Sixties vibe.


So, in conclusion, Minions isn’t great. It’s exhausting, frantic and narratively confused. Maybe if you’re a big fan of Despicable Me you’ll be blindly loyal to the characters and love it regardless, but to an outsider or casual fan – Minions is a rather difficult film to enjoy. The kids will love it, but parents – brace yourselves.

Minions is visually impressive and boasts a brilliant soundtrack, but struggles narratively and exhausts the viewer with almost-constant hijinks. 2/5.

★★☆☆☆

Sam Love


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