MINIONS – Only for the Kids

While watching Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures’ new film MINIONS you begin to realize that there are certain characters in the world of movies that work best when given to us in small chunks.  The Minions definitely fall into this category.  Watching them break away from the DESPICABLE ME franchise and going out on their own, we could only hope to see the Minions star in a movie that truly shined.  Let’s remember that the PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR did a similar thing last year and it resulted in a wonderful surprise.  So why shouldn’t the Minions be able to do the same thing?  Well as the movie plays out we begin to realize that these lovable yellow characters have very little in their arsenal to make us laugh and when those few things get repeated over and over again, it starts to no longer be funny.  After all, for how long can we listen to their indecipherable dialogue and laugh.  It starts to wear you down.


MINIONS © 2015 Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

If I’m being completely honest though, as I started to grow weary of the Minions and their repetitive ways, I looked around and noticed that the younger kids in the audience couldn’t seem to get enough.  They were laughing out loud and enjoying every moment of the craziness.  They genuinely seemed to be having an amazing time and the gags couldn’t come faster or repeat themselves enough.  Upon reflection, I then had to realize that what this movie did have going for it was an effective way of keeping the younger audience on the edge of their seats and maybe it’ll just be the adults, like myself that will have a hard time enjoying it.


MINIONS is basically an origin story.  It tells the tale of how these cute little yellow creatures from the DESPICABLE ME franchise began their exhausting search for the perfect villain to lead them.  Starting as single cell organisms floating around in the water, they emerge onto land to have more than a few disastrous encounters with those whom they try to follow through history.  We are told of the Minions search through a great piece of narration voiced by Geoffrey Rush.  He tells of their encounters trying to serve everything from a T-Rex to Napoleon, but because of their continuous failures the Minions find themselves forced to hide out in a cave where they become very unhappy.  One Minion named Kevin has a plan, and with the help of two more, Stuart and Bob (all three voiced by Pierre Coffin), they again venture out into the world in hopes of finding a new evil leader.   The year is now 1968 and the trio eventually find this new potential master in Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), a woman who wants to steal the Queen of England’s crown.


Scarlet Overkill (voiced by SANDRA BULLOCK), the first ever female super-villain, squeezes (L to R) STUART, KEVIN and BOB tight. © 2015 Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Directors Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin, along with writer Brian Lynch keep things moving at a brisk pace.  The slapstick humor never stops and a lot of the gags actually do hit their marks perfectly.  The film opens with the Minions singing the Universal theme and then continues to effectively make references to everything from Excalibur to the Beatles. Their encounter with Count Dracula is probably one of my favorite moments in the film.  Unfortunately, for every gag that works there are a lot more that don’t.  The filmmakers’ continuous use of the indecipherable dialogue to get a laugh begins to get a little too redundant and the Minions’ chaotic antics eventually becomes tiresome.


(L to R) KEVIN, BOB and STUART are on a mission © 2015 Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


The main reason why the film ultimately doesn’t work is that almost all the humor seems to center on the Minions.  Good comedy writing needs to recognize the importance of the supporting characters to balance everything out.  The film starts off promising when we are introduced to the Nelsons.  Michael Keaton and Allison Janney effectively play the parents of this strange family and they are given the best gag in the film early on when their family’s true nature is revealed.   Too bad most of the other characters aren’t given the same opportunity to shine.


BOB (center) hitches a ride from the Nelson family—(L to R) Madge (ALLISON JANNEY), Walter Jr. (MICHAEL BEATTIE), Binky, Walter (MICHAEL KEATON) and Tina (KATY MIXON). © 2015 Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Sandra Bullock, who plays the villainous Scarlett Overkill, seems to be holding back her performance a bit.  Maybe if she had played it a little more over the top it could have helped to balance out the zaniness of the Minions.  It’s almost as if the writer and co-directors wanted the Minions to always be the center of attention and didn’t want to place anything in the film that might distract away from them.  If they had given Bullock some room to get a little more outrageous with her character, allowing her to stand out a little, it might have given the Minion’s some space and the film may not have seemed so repetitive and one sided.


Scarlet Overkill (voiced by SANDRA BULLOCK) dances with husband Herb (JON HAMM) © 2015 Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


With family films such as last years PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR, as well as this year’s PADDINGTON and INSIDE OUT reaching a certain level of intelligence and class that allowed all their characters to be active participants in the story, it seems a step down to watch something as mediocre as MINIONS.  But, once again I have to admit that the younger kids at the screening that I attended seemed to really enjoy it.  Therefore, my advice to the parents who might find it a little harder to sit through is to wait a couple of months and rent the DVD.  This would allow them an opportunity to busy themselves elsewhere as their children have the time of their lives with these crazy characters called the Minions.

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About Mark Oguschewitz

Mark Oguschewitz moved to Los Angeles, California after graduating with a film degree from Columbia College in Chicago, Ill. Pursuing a career in the industry, Mark became an award winning freelance editor. He is also known for being the creative consultant for the podcast "Skywalking through Neverland" and co-host of the Podcast "Talking Apes TV." Mark's short film "Gourmet" took the Best Micro-Short honor at the International Horror and Sci-Fi film festival in 2007. His spare time is all about movies. It's not just entertainment, but has become more of a real passion, as he tries to see everything he can. Art house or Blockbuster – It doesn't matter, he loves them all.