Overview: The henchmen from Despicable Me get their own movie. Universal Pictures; 2015; Rated PG; 91 minutes.
Meh-nions: The final scene in Minions scored one of those worth-the-price-of-admission, total theater laughs. And while I can only speak for myself, I’m pretty sure a moderately amusing moment garnered such response because we’d spent 87 of the 91 minute runtime bored out of our minds. In all fairness, this is a kid’s movie, marketed for kids. In all reality, not even the kids seemed too enthused by the effort. It’s hard to compete with Disney, and it’s even harder to compete with Pixar. But Despicable Me, where our Minions made their debut, was a clever, heartwarming family flick even the grownups could enjoy. Despicable Me’s success at the box office lead to Despicable Me 2, a yawn of a sequel devoid of the magic of the first, clearly drawn up to rake in the cash. Reread that last sentence and just substitute “Despicable Me 2″ for “Minions,” and you’re up to speed.
The Villains: If I was excited for anything about Minions, it was new super villain, Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock). Some of the all-time greatest animated villains belong to perfectly frightening female characters (Maleficent, Ursula, Cruella de Vil), and I was ready to add her name to the list. When your film centers around three gibberish-speaking, giggling, immortal (I think) protagonists (for lack of a better word), filmmakers are going to borrow from the success of the first film by creating another Gru-like, compelling villain for our Minions. Or at least you’d think. But Scarlett Overkill and her useless husband, Herb (Jon Hamm), are essentially afterthoughts with nonexistent storylines and lackluster dialogue. Minion speak is mostly a mash up of unintelligible English-Spanish-French, child-like gibberish, so when the only real dialogue filmmakers are tasked with falls flat, it’s inexcusable. Bullock and Hamm, actors I quite like, give some of the worst voiceover performances in recent years. But it’s hard to fault them; they’re not given much to work with in the first place. These boring, forgettable villains singlehandedly ensure a boring, forgettable film.
Bah-nan-ahh: The concept is solid, though. The prequel opens with the Minions’ origin story. Since the dawn of time, these little henchmen have inexplicably, and enthusiastically, attached themselves to the most despicable masters on the planet. In a series of unfortunate mishaps, the Minions accidentally kill off each master, leaving them in need of a supervillain to make life worth living (and it should be noted that this children’s movie has a high body count.) With a well-executed beginning, this was shaping up to be an enjoyable watch. But love for these sidekicks alone isn’t enough to sustain a full feature film. Minions is sure to leave us with a young Gru, completing the Minions’ origin story. And that was just enough to remind me that nearly everything I liked about Despicable Me was missing from its prequel. In theory, a movie about henchmen, especially a movie about the scene-stealing, movie-making, beloved henchmen from two well-liked family films, sounds like it has potential. And in better hands, and with the right script and better villains, it could have been a worthwhile endeavor.
Overall: Minions is little more than a cash grab; lots of cute but little heart.
Featured Image: Universal Pictures