These cute yellow creatures are the Mr. Bean of children’s films. The film, a prequel to the other films in the Despicable Me franchise, is also an inverted equivalent to the Bean Movie. Where he was transplanted from England to the US and explored the cultural stereotypes there, the Minions do the same, the other way around. And while they may have a cuteness factor of a billion (at least in comparison to Rowan Atkinson), just like Mr. Bean, an extended period of time spent with the little yellow fellas grows tedious.
While often very sweet, with plenty of gentle laughs, the film lacks any great emotional arc – something that was so strong in the first Despicable Me film. By the end of the film, the volume of laughs in the cinema was drastically reduced as people had lost patience and interest in the ludicrous, nonsensical tale, despite the cute factor.
Doesn’t it feel so good to be bad?
The Minions exist to please their boss. Trouble is, they can’t seem to keep hold of one. Eventually, they exile themselves into a community of their own, sans big bad boss. But without the purpose in life that drives them, the Minions feel empty. They are bored and listless, surviving rather than living. That is, until Kevin decides to venture out into the world and find them a new boss.
With the help of Bob and Stuart, Kevin makes his way to the US. There the Minions learn of ‘Villain Con’ where they hope they will be able to find a new boss for their tribe. Against all obvious odds, the Minions become the new henchmen of the greatest super villain in the world, Scarlet Overkill. She takes the boys to England and enlists their help in achieving her diabolical plan: stealing the Queen’s crown.
Gentlemen do not steal ladies’ crowns!
The film opens very strong, with an amusingly narrated (by Geoffrey Rush) tale of where the Minions came from and how they came to be in their current predicament. This immediately overcomes the limitations of their lack of understandable speech – but unless the filmmakers were going to go the way of parody documentary (something along the lines of The Gods Must Be Crazy), the narration finished after the opening sequence. As a result, the film almost immediately runs into trouble. There’s only so much slapstick comedy and gibberish dialogue an audience can take.
When we first meet Scarlet Overkill (gleefully voiced by Sandra Bullock) the film receives another boost. As Overkill herself points out, who said a woman can’t be as awesome and bad as a man? There I was thinking, ‘wow, what a great feminist message!’ Unfortunately, the filmmakers backtrack from that point. Most of Overkill’s power comes from the tech she uses, developed by a man – her husband Herb (with an over the top, stereotypical English accent as performed by John Hamm). While she at first casually references all the treasure she stole for the fun of it, she then sends the Minions out to steal the real prize she wants – why?! If she’s such a badass, she should be able to easily do it herself! Especially when she doesn’t think all that highly of the Kevin, Bob, and Stuart. It made little sense and completely undermined the supposed power of her character.
The questionable logic of the narrative doesn’t stop with Overkill’s character either. The behaviour of our three main Minions is also a little odd at times. (And no, I don’t think it matters that it is a kids film, the internal logic of the piece still needs to hold together.) It is well established that the Minions, as a race, tend to mean well but don’t always achieve their goals. They are more than a little hapless. That’s fine as a set-up, but the film also sets them up as having clear motivations, only to have that drive be forgotten wherever convenient for the plot.
Verdict: Minions is an average children’s film, which makes it a disappointment being a part of an excellent franchise and having such strong base characters to work with. There are enough laughs to keep children entertained for the most part, but it lacks proper character development and growth as well as a strong narrative thread.