It’s hardly a stretch to say that when Despicable Me debuted to enormous success in 2010, many of the accolades were being fired in the direction of its heaving mass of supporting players. From Jerry to Dave, to Phil to Tim, the yellow pill-shaped little blighters provided oodles of slapstick hilarity to complement Gru’s more traditional narrative arc. Having cashed in on their popularity through ubiquitous merchandising, serviceable sequel Despicable Me 2 (2013) probably leaned on them a little too much. Perhaps this might have invited questions as to whether they were capable of headlining their own movie. Fear not, because Minions (2015) is a riot.
From the moment that three little yellow cells begin to follow a bigger cell deep in the ocean; this is a thoroughly entertaining and genuinely funny spin-off/prequel that contains more than enough to please audiences of all ages. The visual gags are, naturally, the main attraction and are likely, at times, to keep younger viewers in raptures of laughter. It’s in giving the minions specific characters and a narrative arc that writer Brian Lynch managed to find a way to make them work without Gru, though. After millennia bimbling around after various evildoers – from a T-Rex to Napoleon, via Dracula – they find themselves alone. Like Lumiere and Cogsworth, they’re not whole without a soul to wait upon.
Up step Kevin, Stuart, and Bob (all voiced by co-director Pierre Coffin) who strike out into the world to find their tribe a new nefarious master. Their search takes them on all manner of escapades – while the rest of tribe at home provide further comic relief reminiscent of the Scrat cutaways in the Ice Age films – from robbing banks, to attending the delightfully referential Villain-con and then on to 1960s London. This last stop on their tour allows the creators to revel in their European heritage from the minions’ own pan-European patois, to a whole host of gags about England. One story beat sees Queen Elizabeth deposed after someone pulls the legendary sword from the stone, and she finds herself downing pints in a typical London boozer.
The crown she loses is primarily coveted by the world’s first female super villain Scarlett Overkill, voiced by Sandra Bullock who is clearly having a whale of a time with the role, even if it lacks much meat on its animated bones. That CGI is fairly strong, however, with some of the landscapes and action set pieces brilliantly rendered. Better still is that attention to detail reserved for Kevin, Stuart and Bob. Development might be overstating it somewhat, but each of the trio of lead minions is given the opportunity to exhibit their own unique personality and they’ll win the hearts of most audiences. And that is ultimately where Minions will claim its victory. It may not be pushing any boundaries and certainly lacks the emotional depth of the Despicable Me films, but as far as screwball animated farce for all the family goes, Minions is a winner. Kumbaya!
Ben Nicholson | @BRNicholson