Representatives of a tribe of weird little yellow men search for a new evil boss to serve in order to restore the joy to the Minions’ lives.
Kyle Balda & Pierre Coffin, 2015
The Minions (all voiced by co-director Pierre Coffin) have been around since the dawn of life on Earth, crawling from the primordial ooze to find a master to serve. They’ve worked for many of the villains of history, generally being more of a cute nuisance than an actual help, but in the 1960s they found themselves stuck at the North Pole in a bit of a funk. Brave Kevin recruits a team to go out into the world and find them all a new master. He and his bumbling friends Stuart and Bob make it to America, where they accidentally discover that there will be a Villains Con in Florida. With the help of some odd friends they meet along the way, they make it to the con, and find themselves working for the most infamous villain in the world: Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock), the world’s first female supervillain. Kevin hopes she’ll give his tribe purpose again, but Scarlett has her own agenda.
I don’t get the popularity of the minions. I saw the first Despicable Me a while ago (I’ve never seen the second), and it didn’t exactly leave a lasting impact. The reveal of what exactly the minions are disturbed me rather than enticing me. These guys are an all-male coded tribe who are immortal, ancient, impervious to harm, and exist solely to serve evil. What about that screams “kids’ movie heroes”? I mean, I know they’re cute (not THAT cute, honestly), but surely cute alone isn’t enough to build an entire movie around? Someone in marketing clearly thought so, but the Minions certainly don’t make for interesting protagonists. Everything they achieve is entirely by accident. Since Scarlett Overkill clearly can’t win in her evil plot, what ends up happening for 90% of the movie is that the minions either help her do something pretty terrible, or just accidentally foil her. There’s an entire scene set in a torture chamber where Scarlett’s husband Herb (John Hamm, who, to be fair, is actually somewhat funny) tries to torture the minions and finds them untorturable. Literally nothing harms these things. The result of this is that Scarlett is a one-note, boring villain who never really poses a threat to anyone anyway. Also, there’s no character growth for any of the characters (obviously – this is a prequel and the minions are much the same as in the other films. Going from sad to happy thanks to external factors isn’t an arc). At least Gru started as a villain but learned how to be a nice guy sometimes.
The filmmakers get a lot of mileage out of the film’s 60s setting, for better and for worse. The costumes and sets are brightly coloured fever dreams of what the 60s looked like. Meanwhile, they spent a lot of money getting very famous 60s music for the movie…and then just dump it in whenever the film seems like it might need a song, regardless of appropriateness in the moment. There’s a weird set-up with a family where I thought maybe they were going to lead the minions to Gru, the hero from the other films, but that’s not what happens at all, so they’re just kind of…there for a bit. The film is well-animated, and the kids I saw it with really seemed to dig it. They sat in enraptured silence for the vast majority of the film, and while laughs were thin on the ground, boredom was too. I guess bright colours and fun songs really are all you need to keep them entertained. Hopefully this will just be a flash in the pan, but still, stuff like this, the Smurfs franchise, and the fact that they’re still making Ice Age movies are the reason why kids’ movies are mostly a depressing venture these days.
Minions on IMDb