It goes without saying at this point that one of cinema's biggest juggernauts, animated or live action, right now is the Despicable Me franchise. Hell, 2013's Despicable Me 2 was one of that year's biggest hits, grossing just under $1 billion worldwide. And of course, the thing we all remember from both those films are those gibberish speaking, Twinkie-shaped Minions. They completely steal both those movies and make for a funnier and more enjoyable experience watching them. But can the Minions really carry their own film? Well, that was my fear going into the highly anticipated Minions, and unfortunately, my fears were very much realized. While Minions certainly isn't a total failure, it definitely doesn't measure up to the quality of the Despicable Me films or even the quality of most animated films these days.
So what could a Minions standalone movie be about? Well, in the film, we learn that the Minions have been around since the dawn of time with the singular purpose to serve history's most villainous bad guys. They've served everyone from a T-Rex to Napoleon Bonaparte, and they even served Dracula himself (at some point I'm sure they also worked for Adolf Hitler). The story then jumps to 1968 where the Minions are having trouble finding someone to serve, and as a result have grown aimless and start to feel a lack of purpose. This prompts 3 Minions - Kevin, Stuart, and Bob - to go out and find themselves a master, which they eventually when they go to a villain convention and meet Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), the world's first female supervillain, along with her husband Herb (Jon Hamm). The Overkills send the Minions on a mission to steal Queen Elizabeth's crown, which Scarlet has coveted since she was a child, and as you can imagine, things go horribly wrong.
Does that plot sound a little convoluted? Well, that's cause it is. But we'll get into the negatives later. What are some things this movie does well? First things first, the film's introduction, I felt, was pretty funny. The fact that we saw most of it in the freaking trailer definitely prevents it from being as funny as it could've been, but nonetheless, getting to see the Minions serve a variety of different baddies of different kinds was definitely entertaining, even if it lasted for like 5 minutes.
Also, I think it goes without saying how good the animation is, but this is probably the best animation that Illumination Entertainment has ever done. Everything is just so fluid here, the animation is filled with energy, and the character designs, while not exactly anything we haven't seen before (especially in this franchise), are very appealing.
The last thing I'll mention, and this is something I found very interesting, is that you can definitely see a kinda foreign sensibility within this film. It makes sense, seeing how Illumination Entertainment is basically a foreign studio, but I found it very interesting that this time around, we don't just see the Minions speaking the gibberish we're used to hearing them speak. Here, they actually speak a lot of Spanish, and I mean LEGIT Spanish, and I think I even heard them speaking some French. This'll probably go over most people's heads, but this is just something I noticed and thought was intriguing.
Despite all that the movie has going for it, unfortunately, like I said before, it really did justify my fear that the Minions cannot carry their own film, because they really can't. What made the Minions so funny in the Despicable Me films is that they were used just sparingly enough so that they can remain funny without getting tedious or tired. Whenever there may be something emotional going on with Gru or the girls, we can always go back to the Minions and have a good laugh. Here, the Minions are front and center, and if I'm being honest, after a while their shtick that we loved in those movies starts to feel kinda old. I mean, we can only take their crazy antics for so long before we start to get tired of them.
Things get even worse, however, when they bring in this Scarlet Overkill character basically as this movie's equivalent of Felonious Gru, and while Gru is one of my favorite modern animated characters, Scarlet Overkill is just BLAND. She has no personality whatsoever, she isn't memorable at all, and they don't give her a lot of funny dialogue. And although Sandra Bullock is one of my favorite actresses working today, she unfortunately doesn't bring much to this character. I actually found Jon Hamm's character far more enjoyable.
Another thing that really irked me about Minions is how Illumination decided to bring in such talented actors and put them in such thankless roles. I already touched on Sandra Bullock's character, but there's also the inclusions of Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, and Steve Coogan. Michael Keaton and Allison Janney play a married couple that the Minions meet on their way to Villain-Con, and these roles are basically expendable. Neither actor gets anything really funny to do, and especially after seeing Michael Keaton in Birdman, it's really sad to see him in a role like this. And Steve Coogan's situation is even worse, as he plays a villain we see at Villain-Con for all of 2 MINUTES. Why get such talented people for such pointless parts in a movie like this? Seriously!
So overall, Minions further proves that the title characters work best as side characters rather than the leads of their own film. In the Despicable Me movies, they consistently steal the show, but that's a testament to how sparingly (and smartly so) that they're used, and it's very effective. Here, the jokes start to feel rehashed and tedious, providing for a much less enjoyable experience at the movies, and one that I'll probably forget about in the next 24 hours. If you want a good movie to take your family to, go and see Inside Out. If you've already seen it, see it again, dammit! That movie shows how to do a family movie right. Minions on the other hand is purely one for the kids.