Minions (2015)

Basically, the heroes are one of each of the significant morphemes of minion.
Basically, the heroes are one of each of the significant morphemes of minion.

“Go back to where it all began”

Directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda
Starring Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm

After a potted history of the evolution of the Minion species and the tribe’s service to history’s greatest monsters, from T. rex to Napoleon, the Minions find themselves at a loose end, living an idyllic but apathetic life in an icy cave. Only Kevin (Coffin, who voices all of the Minions), the ‘smart’ one, has the notion to seek a new ‘big boss’, taking Stuart, the artist, and Bob, the innocent, with him.

Arriving in New York in 1968, the three Minions through a series of chance encounters find their way to VillainCon in Orlando, and there gain employment with Scarlet Overkill (Bullock), the world’s first female supervillain. Taken to England and armed with weapons made by Scarlet’s husband Herb Overkill (Hamm), they are tasked with stealing Queen Elizabeth’s (Jennifer Saunders) crown. By chance, Bob becomes king and then abdicates in favour of Scarlet, who betrays them.

The rest of the film becomes increasingly difficult to summarise in any brief fashion (and I’m sure that the Wikipedia article makes mistakes,) but it all works out all right in the end.

What’s wrong with it?

Minions is set in an alternate version of Earth’s history, or rather in the history of the alternate Earth set up in Despicable Me, but it’s hard to get a handle on it. What’s the hinge point? Is it the existence of Minions? And if so, how have they affected the world enough that England is decimal (and apparently not part of a greater United Kingdom) in 1968, by Elizabeth II is still on the throne and Donovan still recorded ‘Mellow Yellow’? It makes no sense.

And how come the Minions evolved incredibly rapidly and then stopped in the Cretaceous? Perhaps this is related to the fact that the Cretaceous Minions appear to have achieved effective immortality, since there is no sign of them breeding or changing thereafter.

The plot is something of a mess of chance events and celebrity cameos, and the Minion humour can be hit or miss without a strong A-plot to balance it.

There’s a lot of death for a kids movie. It’s like The Land Before Time, but for funner!

I’m pretty sure my daughter lost interest after the T. rex bought it.

It’s a little sad that Scarlet Overkill, the first truly successful female supervillain, has to be ignominiously defeated.

Hiroyuki Sanada deserves better than ‘Samurai Villain’, but I guess at least he’s working.

What’s right with it?

The film is a lot of fun, and while the hit rate of the humour is less than perfect, there is so much, so fast, that it rarely becomes wearing, especially as the misses tend to slide by rather than ever being offensive.

This film has, hands down, the greatest soundtrack of any film that has or is likely to be released during my daughter’s childhood and aimed at her. Because it’s 1968, yo! ‘Happy Together’, ‘You Really Got Me’, ‘My Generation’, ‘The Letter’; oh, fuck yeah!

No-one calls the Sword in the Stone Excalibur (not outside of Wikipedia anyway.)

Queen Elizabeth II elbow drops a Minion and then later goes into retirement as some sort of half-pro arm wrestler in an East End pub.

How bad is it really?

It’s huge fun, and the ‘problems’ are mostly just a result of me overthinking things.

Best bit (if such there is)?

So many fine moments, but I may go for the Minion tribe circumnavigating the world to reach England, including walking in front of a film crew who are faking the moon landing.

What’s up with…?

  • Decimal currency? The entry prices to the Tower of London are in decimal, but Britain used Lsd until 1971.
  • Minions and life, sex and death? Stuart hits on a fire hydrant, mistaking it for a ‘Papagena’, so apparently there are female minions (or male Minions, but even more than Stuart being a male name, Papagena is feminine, as well as a nod to opera,) and yet see above re. the fact that the Minions apparently do not age, change, die or reproduce between the Cretaceous period and at least 1968. On the upside, I like that the Minion female ideal is a yellow fire hydrant, not a Minion with hourglass curves.

Ratings

Production values – The animation is delightful, blending iconic design with just the right level of detail. The soundtrack is sublime. 4
Dialogue and performances – 60% of the dialogue is the mishmash of language and gibberish that is Minionese, and it’s impressive that there is some sense of meaning there. Most of the rest of the dialogue is one-liners delivered by pros. 3
Plot and execution – The plot of this movie is a shambles, but wonderfully conceived and delivered with the kind of breakneck pace that makes it hard to care. 8
Randomness – In the middle of a police chase, Bob stumbles on and draws the Sword in the Stone, so… yeah. 9
Waste of potential – Building on the success of the two Despicable Me movies, there was a lot of down for this to go. It didn’t. 1

Overall 25%

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