There’s an absurdity to the Minions spin-off adventure that suits the titular diminutive, jaundice evil assistants. A clear attempt to exploit the popularity of the characters ahead of Despicable Me 3 (and following the monstrous success of 2013’s Despicable Me 2), Minions gives us full access to the scene-stealing sidekicks. That could either have resulted in Minions being a darn tooting guilty pleasure, or simply rendering them forever annoying.
And at first, Minions feels as though it’s very much going to be in the latter camp. Because despite the intoxicating vocal presence of Geoffrey Rush as the film’s narrator, and great visual gags that show the Minions inadvertently killing a T. Rex, a caveman, an Egyptian pharaoh, Dracula, and Napoleon, their overwhelming gibberish proves irritating.
In Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2, the Minions’ involvement was an hilarious addition to Gru’s heinous antics. Here, their constant incoherent babbling feels as though it is slowly melting your brain and threatening to derail all of the good that Minions is providing visually.
Then, though, the film’s absurdity kicks into overdrive to realign Minions and to make it an enjoyably deranged, if haphazardly plotted, adventure. After a decades-long barren spell without any masters to be dictated by, which has led to them falling into an hilarious depicted depression in the arctic, the Minions decide to go out on their own to find their new ruler. The trio tasked with this trek are Stuart, Bob, and Kevin, who after a long sail find themselves in New York at exactly the same time that the audience learn they are in 1968.
Cue the start of a hypnotically terrific soundtrack, plenty of genuinely laugh out loud visual gags, and the Minions chaotically dilly-dallying their way round the Big Apple, until the trio learn that they’ll need to travel to Villain-Con in Orlando, Florida, to meet the world’s greatest super-villains.
At this point, 99% of the film’s vocal content has come courtesy of the Minions’ bastardization of several languages. If you’ve enjoyed that, the rest of the film will be a delight. If you haven’t, then thankfully you're about to get some help, because a cavalcade of vocal talent now arrives to share the burden of the film with the Minions, and to ease the pain of their inane chatter.
Michael Keaton and Alison Janney are first up as an evil family that’s hell-bent on heading to Villain-Con, who also perform dastardly deeds along the way. But it’s Jon Hamm and Sandra Bullock’s husband and wife team of Herb and Scarlet Overkill that finally shifts Minions away from annoying territory and into a full-on guilty pleasure.
Once the Minions are aligned with their new rulers, a vibrant, kinetic energy is produced, while bright, enticing, and silly action set pieces are punctuated with great slapstick gags, and scenarios that never outstay their welcome. Yes, there are a jokes that don’t land. But there’s always another gag just a moment away to make you forget about the previous failure, while the hilarious exchanges between Scarlet and Herb and the Minions as they steal Queen Elizabeth’s crown back and forth from each other eventually grows into a surprisingly emotional and truly epic finale.
In the end, Minions’ annoying tendencies are ultimately more than made up for by a luscious aesthetic, fast-paced energy, and plain old-fashioned silliness that you can’t help but fall for. On their own they proved too much, but Minions does stretch into a credible and enjoyable spin-off, even if the film’s directors probably couldn’t explain how they did it. It’ll be good to see them back with Gru in 2017, though.
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