Monday, July 20, 2015

'Minions' review

If you had told me back in 2010 that Despicable Me would evolve into one of the most popular and enduring franchises in Hollywood, I would have called you crazy. A low budget, slightly obscure animated comedy from an untested studio, Despicable Me was a breath of fresh air. By 2013, the sequel had sent the series to the stratosphere and minion mania was beginning to ensue. Now, the supporting players who always stole the show- those little yellow minions- have their own spin-off film. With millions in box office receipts already, Minions is clearly a hit- but does it match the heart and humor of the first two films? The easy answer there is no. Minions is a film without much depth, and not much in regards to story or character. It's a copy-and-paste spin-off meant to maximize off of the popularity of the minions and it doesn't help that nearly 3/4ths of the movie was shown in the trailer. It has a few moments, but Minions lands with a resounding thud.

I usually don't complain about movies being spoiled in the trailers, but Minions is a prime example. If you've seen the trailer for this movie, you've pretty much seen everything that this movie has to offer. You've heard the jokes, you've seen the story and there aren't many surprises that follow (with the exception of a witty end tag and a clever visual gag). The basic point of Minions is to tell the origin story of how the little yellow things came to be and then show how we got to the start of Despicable Me. Most of the film is dedicated to the first idea, with only a little bit of background for Gru. But essentially, the minions are meant to serve the most evil master on Earth and they've done this since the dinosaur age. Eventually, they set up shop in the Arctic but get bored easily because they have no evil master to serve. 

All of that changes when three minions- Kevin, Stuart and Bob- decide to venture to 1960s New York to find a new master. After a series of misadventures, the minions end up in Orlando for Villain Con, a convention for the most evil supervillains on the planet. After inadvertently winning a contest, the minions end up working for Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and assist her in an epic quest to steal the crown of the Queen of England. 

Minions has some funny moments. There are some inventive action scenes, and the final act of the film is pretty solid too. But the problem is that there's nothing here. Sure, kids will get a kick out of it and adults might be mildly amused at times, but the film lacks heart. It lacks depth. It lacks feeling. It's the worst kind of film- a dull, emotionless studio product that doesn't even try to do anything interesting. Despicable Me 2 kinda had an emotional core, but ever since the original film hit, I've noticed a severe drop in the quality of the films at Illumination Entertainment (the company behind Despicable Me and Minions). Hop, The Lorax and Minions are all empty products created to make money and there's nothing under the surface. 

Character-wise, Minions is a giant pool of nothingness. I can't tell you a single thing about Kevin, Stuart or Bob beyond..........well, that's exactly my point. They're not really characters. They're just there to move the story along. Despicable Me worked because Gru had a character arc. He went from being selfish, villainous and evil to being a good dad who cared about a group of kids. That's good character work. That's heart. Minions has none of that. It's soulless and the human characters aren't better.

Scarlet Overkill is evil. And she wants the crown for the Queen of England because she always wanted it as a kid. And she has a weirdo husband (voiced perfectly by Jon Hamm) who helps her do evil stuff. That's all we know about her character. Michael Keaton and Allison Janney show up as the leaders of a criminal family and they have some amusing moments, but once again, we know absolutely nothing about their characters. Maybe I'm being overly critical in the aftermath of an insightful masterpiece like Inside Out, but Minions is absolutely hollow. 

Technically and visually, Minions is impressively made. The Despicable Me universe is colorful and robust and that has always impressed me. I also loved the soundtrack, which is filled with British references and 60s tracks. Some of the references and jokes are cheap, but at least they didn't feel stale (that can't be said about the rest of the film). As I said before, I thought that the third act was well done as well, capturing a sense of fun that the rest of the film doesn't have. The final scene brings the franchise full circle and I thought that was brilliantly done. 

Beyond that, there isn't a whole lot to say about Minions. If you're a die hard fan of the little yellow guys, then you'll probably have a fun time with Minions. But I have a feeling that anyone else who shows up will be disappointed. In a world where we have such magnificent animated films like The LEGO Movie, Inside Out and even the original Despicable Me, that makes something like Minions even more disappointing. A quick and painless affair, Minions nevertheless ends up being a pretty poor effort from the folks at Illumination. 

THE FINAL GRADE:  C-                                             (5.1/10)

Image Credits: JoBlo, Screen Rant

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