It's hard not to wonder if the band REM had Minions in mind when they wrote their 1991 hit "Shiny Happy People," a song with almost as much cavity-inducing sweetness as this relentlessly cheery creation and inevitable Despicable Me spin-off.
The Minions, despite their almost Borderline Personality-like attraction to bad people and bad behavior, have become one of Hollywood's latest and greatest marketing creations with a sort of naughty by nature endearing quality that makes it just believable enough when some crackpot lays claim to the idea that a McDonald's toy minion is spewing forth obscenities rather than the gobbledy-gook we've never completely understood yet still makes us laugh.
They were easily the break-out starts of the Despicable Me films, not in small part because Hollywood figured out in rapid fashion that these wild and wonderful onscreen stars were easily transformed into all manner of marketing mania including everything from figurines to stuffed dolls to household items to clothing and on and on.
The story, while pretty much irrelevant here, is essentially a prequel to the Despicable Me films, a sort of rapidfire origin story for Minions where we learn that they've existed far longer than humanity and have always been in search of the baddest baddie of them all to serve whether that be a prehistoric dinosaur, a dictator, an urban legend, or one seriously bad supervillain. The latter comes in the form of Scarlett Overkill, appropriately voiced in histrionic badness by Sandra Bullock, whose appearance at Villain-con inspires the Minions in their latest search for villain to serve and a place they can call home.
Minions slows down a bit too much during the time when they remain under Scarlett's spell, perhaps feeling it necessary to cater to Bullock's acknowledged Hollywood superpowers, but it picks back up again when things don't go quite as planned as part of Scarlett's evil plot to steal the Queen's royal crown and lay claim to the throne of England.
While there's no question that Minions is still targeted squarely at the family friendly market, there's a lot more freestylin' joy to be found now that they've broken free of the relatively structured Gru crew storyline. In Minions, we get a little more weirdness and a lot more random humor including a rather spirited section through 1968 England complete with its obligatory yet nicely manifested Beatles references.
Minions isn't about to be mistaken for Inside Out or any other of Pixar's technically superior and far deeper animated fare. Of course, it's not trying to be a Pixar film. Minions gives audiences exactly what they're expecting from the film - 90 minutes of silliness, absurdity, playfulness badness and relentless cheeriness. If that's what you go in expecting and hoping for, then you'll likely have yourself a blast. Expect more? Prepare to be disappointed.
Co-director Pierre Coffin voices pretty much all the main Minions here in a way that makes you wonder "How does he even do that?" Sandra Bullock is clearly having a blast amping up her vocal stylings with true overkill, while Jon Hamm's Herb is stylishly and awesomely bad. Allison Janney and Michael Keaton are by far the most fun baddies to be found heading up a family of bank robbers who escort the minions on their road to Villain-con.
Unquestionably a franchise grab, Minions is for the most part a franchise you and your young children won't mind visiting again and again. Heck, I'll even admit that Kevin sits proudly on my desk at work while Bob, the enthusiastic young one, is staring at me even as I write this review.
Despite a surprisingly bland villain that lacks the spark and personality of Steve Carell's Gru, Minions is a surefire hit with a winning mixture of goofy charm and evildoing so bad it's hilariously good. Be prepared, after Minions your kids are going to want one. Or three. Or twelve.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic