Writer: Brian Lynch
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Steve Coogan, Jennifer Saunders, Geoffrey Rush, Pierre Coffin
Running time: 91mins
The lowdown: It’s Minions Begins in this prequel to the outrageously successful Despicable Me franchise. The DM formula, a simple story is merely the clothesline on which to hang a series of gags, is again stuck to, but it’s these gags you’ll remember when the lights go up. All good fun, beautiful to look at and frequently chucklesome, with Sandra Bullock giving good panto in her first villainous role as the fiendish Scarlett Overkill. While never reaching the giddy heights of Despicable Me 2, your kids are still gonna love it.
The full verdict: They may look like early Simpsons concept drawings, but minions are comically versatile creations.
And Minions works best in the first half hour, charting their progress from the dawn of history and through the ages, to the arrival of Kevin, Stuart and Bob (three intrepid minion explorers) hitting New York’s Ellis Island in 1968.
The reason for their quest is due to hundreds of years of exile following millennia of following the most despicable leader available and accidentally orchestrating his demise. Be it a T.Rex, Cro-Magnon man, Pharaohs, Dracula (!) or Napoleon, if he’s got minions on his side he’s going down.
Exile also means avoiding the awkward issue of having to follow Hitler.
But, they crave a charismatic leader to again fall behind, and in New York the citrine trio happen across the Villain Con event happening in Orlando. Once there they meet Overkill and it’s obsession at first sight. Handy, as she needs someone to join her on a trip to England to steal the Queen’s crown and overthrow the monarchy.
Laughs mostly hit the target, and arrive thick and fast. But, Minions is one film where less plot would have worked better. The story gets in the way of the comic invention and a sketch format following the diminutive dolts through the ages would have suited the Looney Tunes style comedy minions do best.
Kids will love the action set pieces, highlights being a chase through the streets of London as the hapless trio attempt to snatch the crown (better than Fast N’ Furious 6’s race) and a climax that literally owes a huge debt to Japanese monster movies.
But, they don’t match the moment when a caveman repeatedly slaps a grizzly bear’s mush with a flyswatter provided by a minion. Or when Kevin, Stuart and Bob realise the family they’re hitching a ride with are career criminals. Or Scarlett Overkill’s sinister re-telling of the 3 Little Pigs in which no-one lives happily ever after. Or the remaining minions’ quest to join their three comrades. Or running gags about bananas and comely water hydrants.
Or the joy of listening to co-director Pierre Coffin’s minion-speak. A mish-mash of English, French, Italian and Spanish (plus in-joke surnames), it mines comedy gold from odd pronunciation and will most likely inspire a PhD thesis on how intonation can make even random words an understandable language.
Bullock, Jennifer Saunders, Steve Coogan and Geoffrey Rush are the voice talent, but Coffin is the real vocal star. It’s good fun just to listen to the minions call each other “Kev-Eeen”, “Stu-ART” and “Boh-buh”. Trust us, you’ll laugh.
Not quite one in a minion then. But, certainly not despicable either.