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New Release Review - MINIONS

The supporting characters from Despicable Me get their own spinoff.


Review by Joshua Mitchell

Directed by: Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Jennifer Saunders, Geoffrey Rush, Steve Carell, Pierre Coffin



"It's not as edgy as it thinks it is, and the film is almost completely brainless. But what can I say? I laughed. Frequently."


It is odd to think that in a mere handful of years, the Minions from Despicable Me fame have become some of the most popular and widely known animated characters in history. They are a phenomenon. And they are everywhere and on everything. T-Shirts, Tic-Tacs, you name it. You can't so much as scroll through your Facebook feed without being bombarded by Minions embellishing inspirational quotes. And with this Minions spinoff expected to make over a billion dollars worldwide, there is truly no escape. However, as long as their accompanying films are as entertaining as this, I don't mind keeping the talking potato heads around for a little while longer.
Serving as a prequel to 2010's surprise success, Despicable Me, Minions follows the aforementioned jelly bean creatures in their pursuit to find a villainous master to serve. Over the years, they have served many masters, often failing to keep them for very long. They eventually build their own habitat in Antarctica, but grow bored and restless without a boss. So three brave Minions by the names of Kevin, Bob, and Stuart embark on a quest to find a new master for the entire clan.
On many levels, it isn't hard to see why cynics have dismissed Minions as a mere cash-grab capitalizing on the enormous popularity of the yellow bean-y things. And while money was likely the necessity that birthed the film into production, there is a genuine feeling of effort here. Directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda show a great deal of fervor in their construction of the project, and even a sense of genuine - dare I say it? - creativity.
The comedy itself is interesting, as it only has a success rate of about 50%. Because the gags come and go so quickly, this isn't really a problem. But because of a thin plot, its brief 91 minute runtime is a bit strained. Many jokes are milked for all they're worth, which is fine if the gag was funny to begin with, but there are awkward moments of long jokes that elicit no laughter.
Of course, the comedy in question is not high brow. Quite the opposite, actually. Minions has an astounding amount of butt-related gags; surely enough to have broken some kind of record. But oddly enough, the jokes are funny. On paper, they probably don't read well, but there are laughs. Part of this is because the film is animated so enthusiastically. It becomes difficult NOT to smile after a little while, simply because of how much fun everyone involved is clearly having. The absence of characters like Gru and his three adopted daughters eliminate boundaries and balance, allowing Coffin and Balda's nutty and unhinged creativity to run rampant for an hour and a half. And while it inevitably proves exhausting, Minions manages to sustain consistent chuckles and laughter for most of its runtime.
The animation is colorful and appropriately bouncy, with the character designs in particular being enormously fun. The satirical wit that peppered the screenplays of Despicable Me and its sequel is found here in its amusing visuals, which are responsible for some of the only fleeting "smart" gags in the film.
Pierre Coffin is responsible for voicing all of the minions in the film, and the spirit in his performances palpably energizes the entire film. Sandra Bullock is given disappointingly little to do as the main antagonist, Scarlet Overkill, though Jon Hamm gets to have some fun as Scarlet's husband Herb in a role notably similar to that of Jason Segel's antagonist in the first Despicable Me film. Smaller roles filled in by Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Geoffrey Rush, and Jennifer Saunders are funny and memorable.
Heitor Pereira gets an exciting opportunity here to take his catchy Minion theme from the previous films, and play with it for the entire film. The result is a wacky and joyous score that reflects its film in its silliness and energy. Like everyone involved, Pereira seems to be having a great time, and it makes the music that much more enjoyable.
After a spirited opening, it takes about 30 minutes for Minions to firmly find its footing. It's not as edgy as it thinks it is, and the film is almost completely brainless. But what can I say? I laughed. Frequently. And as a comedy, it therefore succeeds. It lacks the sweetness and surprising smarts of the first film, but Minions is right on par with Despicable Me 2. Your tolerance for Minions will depend on if you ever found the walking tic-tacs funny to begin with. If you ever found the Minions amusing, this will be an effortlessly enjoyable 91 minutes. Otherwise, buy another ticket to Inside Out.




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