I like the first two “Despicable Me” films. They aren’t at the top tier of animated films but they are fun and perfectly enjoyable. A big reason for those films being so such fun was the Minions. Whenever the screenwriters needed to make the audience laugh it was very easy to cut back to the Minions and see what mischief they were getting themselves into. The characters were designed in the tradition of Looney Tunes with rambunctious and slapstick situations and personalities. Yet the biggest difference between “Despicable Me” and this newest film “Minions” is in “Despicable Me” they were side characters to Gru and his children, which meant the movie didn’t have to lean on them. “Minions” suffers from the lack of Gru and making the sidekicks the main characters. It’s not just the misestimating of the Minions strength as main characters that is a problem, but the serious lack of humor and heart that isn’t present throughout the excoriating 90 minute runtime is also a big part of this misguided venture.
“Minions” follows three of the Minions, Kevin, Bob, and Stewart. Throughout history the group of Minions move from evil master to evil master. Now spending years without one, the group have grown depressed and in need of purpose. Three Minions go out in a search for a new boss and their search leads Kevin, Bob, and Stewart to Villain-Con, where they meet Scarlet Overkill.
The movie works very well for the first ten minutes or so. The film opens up to the deep roots of Minions past. Not that we ever really needed to know the origins of the Minions but the movie does make it fairly entertaining and fun. Geoffrey Rush provides the voice over (which honesty should have been used the entire movie) whose steady voice is a perfect counter balance to the Minions looney nature.
That’s where the movie should have ended. The origins of the Minions was surprisingly fun and enjoyable and it would have made for a great short film. After that the movies starts to become increasingly less fun and surprisingly unfunny. I’m not sure if it’s just specifically that the Minions themselves as characters become increasingly stale or it’s just the writers simply have no imagination to put them into unique or funny situations. The horrible plot doesn’t make things much better as apparently (according to the film) all you need to rule over the country of England is a crown. It became clear that the filmmakers had no intent in making a strong family movie that people of all ages can enjoy. Instead this one was made strictly for the kids.
There isn’t anything inherently wrong with making movies just for children but it does cut a significant audience out that is seeing it. While this is better made movie than other recent kid movies like “The Smurfs” or the unbearable “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movies, this isn’t ALL that much better. I was in a theatre full of children and I didn’t even hear them laugh or giggle all that much(which was surprising to say the least).
I think what this film also lacks is a good straight man. You can’t simply have crazy to bounce off of uncontrollably. Even “Anchorman” ,”Talladega Nights” and even the wildly bombastic “Family Guy” have their “straight men”. Someone who is normal for the craziness to bounce off of. This position is pivotal in comedy dating all the way back to the Abbot and Costello and “The Honeymooners” days. Here the human characters are almost as unhinged as the Minions themselves.
The other and more simple issue is the human characters themselves aren’t funny. Which means we have a movie full of crazy people not doing very funny things and are instead only competing with each other trying to see who can become more annoying? Sandra Bullock (whom has proven to be a talent at comedy in the past) is boring and dull as the voice as Scarlet Overkill. Jon Hamm is annoying and Michael Keaton isn’t used enough. It’s an unhealthy balance of crazy and unfunny.
Like “Cars 2” making Mater the main character or “Joey” getting a spinoff from “Friends”, sometimes the side kick needs to stay the sidekick. The ending was a nice but expected tie in for “Despicable Me” but it doesn’t make up for what was a surprisingly long 90 minutes for a movie that just didn’t seem to know when to end. Part of me wants to see Universal take another crack at this because I can’t figure out if the Minions are just unfunny at 10 minutes of them or the writing was just that bad. “Despicable Me 3” sounds like a more likely and better next installment in the franchise.