Friday, July 17, 2015

Minions Review

As I went to the movies over the past month or two, nearly every movie I saw had a trailer for a movie starring the lovable Minions of the Despicable Me franchise. This movie was cleverly entitled Minions (2015). I praised the interlude shenanigans of these cute characters in the two Despicable Me movies, but having a movie with nothing but those shenanigans was Minion overload and seemed like more of a cash grab than an attempt to entertain.
Evolving from single-celled yellow organisms at the dawn of time, Minions live to serve the biggest and meanest villain they can find, but find themselves working for a continual series of unsuccessful masters, from T. Rex to Napoleon. Without a master to grovel for, the Minions fall into a deep depression. But one minion, Kevin, has a plan; accompanied by his pals Stuart and Bob, Kevin sets forth to find a new evil boss for his brethren to follow. They travel from frigid Antarctica to 1960s New York City, ending in modern London, where their search leads them to Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), the world's first-ever super-villainess. The first job the Minions are tasked with is to steal the crown jewels from Queen Elizabeth II (Jennifer Saunders). Equipped with gadgets from Scarlet Overkill's husband, Herb Overkill (Jon Hamm), the bumbling trio are put to the test for their new master.
It's no understatement to say that the Minions are popular characters. I see them all over the place on Facebook, even in pictures where their inclusion makes no sense. In their previous movies, they are hysterical characters who steal every scene they show up in. They were highly amusing interludes to see between scenes in the Despicable Me movies. But having a movie with nothing but the Minions was a bit much. They don't exactly speak, but make sounds that are occasionally similar to a number of languages. It got to the point that I was hearing their high pitched voices so much I started craving actual dialogue, and when there were people finally speaking it was like, "Oh, yeah, that's what words sound like" Cute and funny as they were, they started getting annoying after a while.
Non-verbal as the Minions are, the way they are animated and by the sounds they make, you can usually tell what it is they are saying or in some cases singing. It's an indication of good animation when we can tell what a non-verbal character is saying or thinking. The animation is pretty good here, too. At one point the Minions find themselves in a mirrored dressing room which boasted some amazing animated "camera" work; that had to be tricky to animate and make it look that good. But as the movie was available in 3-D, there were several shots that looked tailor made to showcase the fact that it was available in 3-D. Shots like these always feel like cheap attempts to charge you a few more dollars for the 3-D show rather than showing what kind of creative things can be done with 3-D technology.
The whole movie is very simple and straightforward, and stuffed to the brim with physical gags and cartoonish humor. That's not bad, of course, I love that sort of thing from time to time! But the silly cartoonish stunts made up at least two thirds of the film, letting any story fall along the wayside. What made Despicable Me so good was the fun story and the characters' personalities clashing together so profoundly. Minions is just a mess of silliness. Kids will eat this stuff up. The concourses of children in the theater I attended were in stitches through most of the movie. I laughed many times as well, but not nearly as much. This isn't exactly something that parents and their children will enjoy together like some other family movies. This is more of a kid movie than a family movie. It's something to take the kids to see just for them, though parents will likely get a few chuckles here and there.
The thing that made this seem most like a cash grab was the fact that in Despicable Me we see blueprints on the walls of Gru's lair for the Minions. This strongly suggests that Gru created the Minions (genetic mutations based on corn), and not adorable creatures that evolved from the dawn of time. I tried to find a picture of this online as evidence, but couldn't find one. So, it seems that they changed their own story canon to feature some funny side characters doing nothing but be funny at the expense of the kind of story that made the previous movie so successful. Sadly, if this trend continues, future movies will lack heart and uniqueness.
Minions was a fun movie, though not a terribly good one. I laughed many times, but not nearly as much as the hoards of kids in the theater. The Minions are adorable and hysterical, but there's just a bit too much of them. It boasts some quality animation, but is lacking in the kind of storytelling that made their previous movies so successful. The 3-D was gimmicky, not terribly well implemented, and was likely utilized just to squeeze a few more dollars out of its audience. The whole thing feels like a cash grab, even if it is a rather amusing cash grab. I did enjoy it, but it's not something I'll go out of my way to see again. I'd wait for it on home video if your kids can wait that long. If they can't I wouldn't do anything more than a 2-D matinee.

1 comment: