MOVIE REVIEW: Minions
"MINIONS"-- ZERO STARS
Alright, it's official. I'm old and I don't get it. I didn't think much of the first "Despicable Me" five years ago and didn't bother to see "Despicable Me 2." However, millions of people and families are going to watch "Minions" this weekend and the film is going to make a boatload of cash. I watch "Minions" and I don't see anything fresh or fun. I see a bloated adventure film that steals good ideas from better films because its own originality is tremendously limited. I hear and see repeated cliches around every corner that are only played for laughs because of mild physical comedy. I see a movie so annoying that I would punch my own child in the face for wanting to watch it over and over. I'll be the one that says it. This film is terrible and we can do better with family entertainment.
Don't get me wrong. I can see why these little anthropomorphic yellow dudes are funny in small doses. Slapstick is a lost art and some of what they do is funny in that department. But that's the point: small doses. There are some sidekicks who can outshine their bosses, but not these guys. For them to have their own overblown film is completely too much. Go ahead, call me a killjoy.
In a mildly clever origin story monologue spanning the opening credits, we witness the minion tribe's beginning at the cellular level and their evolving involvement in loving and following evildoers through history. Exiled after blowing things (literally) for Napoleon Bonaparte, the minions are exiled to snowy servitude of Abominable Snowmen. When one among them, Kevin, feels that they need a new master, he decides to set out on a journey to find one. He gains two travel mates, the eager and energetic Bob and the clueless goof Stuart.
The three arrive in New York City in 1968 and bounce around town in cliched fish-out-of-water fashion. While browsing television, they learn of an international convention for villains, VillainCon International (a clear trolling dig at the currently-ongoing San Diego ComicCon) in Orlando, featuring the headliner Scarlett Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock), society's finest and first female supervillain. After surprisingly earning the right to become Scarlett's newest henchmen, they have found who and what they were looking for. Scarlett leads them to London to steal the Crown Jewels, which naturally they screw-up on in typical fashion, setting up the further adventures and a plot-less mess in the film's second half.
Sorry, but the annoyances add up for me in a hurry. "Minions" is every dumb gag thrown together with little sticking. The wannabe humorous riffs on revisionist world history played with the minions' involvement aren't very funny, even for us adults that will get the references. The same can be said for the movie references and allusions that are thinly veiled and poorly utilized. Furthermore, the carnival of 1960's-era jokes, all are cued by an endless soundtrack of overplayed songs from the era, are the easy, low-hanging fruit that were more funny in the "Austin Powers" series than here.
Sandra Bullock is a nice A-list get for Universal Pictures as a top-line villainess, but even she doesn't get much to work with outside of shouting evil commands and threats. Steve Carell's Gru from the previous films had far more personality. Bullock is not the only award winner cashing a paycheck for an easy voice job. Fellow Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush, Golden Globe winners Jon Hamm and Michael Keaton, BAFTA winner Steve Coogan, and Emmy winner Allison Janney are all on the list of guilty offenders for "Minions."
All "Minions" has going for itself is quick sight gags and physical comedy. Not all of that works either. Too much is eye-rolling and repetitive. Too much is momentary and fleeting. Would it kill the movie to slow down and let a joke breathe a little or have a larger setup than a sight gag? The action scenes and set pieces sparked by the little minions' screw-ups are loud, long, and too ridiculous, even when taken for cheap laughs. The last straw for me is the gibberish language. It was funny and cute the first few times, but an entire movie is way too much. I'll say it again. These guys are funnier in small doses. They should stick to the sidelines or get quick animated shorts like those that play before Disney and Pixar films. Wasting 90+ minutes trying to listen to this and watch these guys will hurt your brain.
Here's the only solution I can offer to find enjoyment in this as an adult likely dragged to this movie by your kids. Pretend that every fourth word or exclamatory utterance of that gibberish speak is a cuss word. Without subtitles, make your own. Treat "Minions" like an extended "This Week in Unnecessary Censorship" Thursday night bit from ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live. Drop in a few S-words, some heavy F-word variances, and pretend bleeps and maybe you'll snicker. If not, please don't blow your brains out with a Nerf gun or dive into the hot oil of the popcorn popper in the lobby. I feel sorry for all of you. As for this website's signature search for life lessons, the pickings are slim.
LESSON #1: WHO DOESN'T OBSESS OVER BANANAS-- Come on. You know you like that fruit more than all others. Admit it and embrace the love.
LESSON #2: FIRE HYDRANTS ARE VOLUPTUOUSLY ATTRACTIVE-- Look at a fire hydrant and examine its features. Stare at its stature, its prominence, its nozzles and valves. They command attention. If you were a minion, you'd fall for one too. If you pictured a fire hydrant and thought something phallic, then stop yourself, man. There are kids around! Double that if you were already in that gutter thinking about bananas from Lesson #1.
LESSON #3: THE DANGERS OF HITCHHIKING WITH WEIRDOS-- I'm waiting for some Dateline or 60 Minutes report someday that measures and shows that 99% of all hitchhiking is perfectly helpful, safe, and danger-free. Go ahead, dumb kids film, encourage and build those fears and stereotypes for laughs (in my pro-hitchhiking devil's advocate voice).
LESSON #4: EVERY VILLAIN NEEDS GULLIBLE FOLLOWERS OR ADMIRERS TO ACHIEVE GREATNESS-- A villain isn't a great villain with being seen and feared by a public that eventually elevates them into an urban legend. Look at the historical mystique given to the likes of Al Capone, Jack the Ripper, or Bonnie and Clyde. They didn't reach their greatness without followers and admirers.
LESSON #5: EVERY GULLIBLE PERSON NEEDS SOMETHING OR SOMEONE TO FOLLOW-- The singular motivation and drive of the minions is humorous on paper, but repetitive when played out this far in "Minions." The attraction of evil is strong. Rule-breakers are cool. That said, gullible people need something to follow or they are directionless and without purpose. Just look at all of the people who watch Fox News or will vote for Donald Trump. Idiots need inspiration too. Speaking of idiots, let's end on a crescendo.
LESSON #6: WE CAN ALWAYS LAUGH AT CLUELESS IDIOTS AND PROBABLY NOT FEEL BAD ABOUT IT-- In the end, everyone but me and a few others are going to love "Minions" and more sequels and roller coaster rides with their gibberish are coming. Liking "Minions" doesn't make you an idiot, but you do get to laugh at the idiots that are the minions themselves. Like the cartoon violence of "The Three Stooges," "Tom and Jerry," and the "Looney Tunes" characters before them, that's the joy of slapstick comedy. It's so over-the-top that we know it's not real. We know it's laughing at the clueless, the idiotic, and the gullible and finding joy in that. When you laugh at that, you're not a bad person, you are exercising your brain that it knows better and can take a joke.
WEBSITE LOGOS DESIGNED BY MEENTS ILLUSTRATED