Here’s the thing with me and the Minions – I liked them in Despicable Me and mostly in Despicable Me 2. They serve as a perfectly fine bit of comic relief to contrast the heavy family drama between Gru and his daughters. But then the Minions got a solo film. The idea to have a solo film about the Minions is purely a bad one for one simple reason. Sidekick comic relief supporting characters generally are unable to carry a film on their own. And such is the case with Minions.
The little yellow creatures are revealed to have existed from the early days of life, always seeking to serve the nastiest master they can find. Over the centuries, they serve Tyrannosaurus Rex, Dracula, and Napoleon. But they always ultimately fail in their duties, necessitating a new master be found. Thus, three of the Minions – Kevin, Bob, and Stuart – set out for New York City, Orlando, and finally London in order to find the most wicked creature on the planet. As it happens, said wicked creature comes in the form of Sandra Bullock’s femme fatale villainess Scarlet Overkill. She has a singular desire – steal the Crown Jewels of England and become a princess, thereby allowing her to rule England. Why she wouldn’t be a queen, rather than a princess is beyond me. Nevertheless, Kevin, Bob, and Stuart are hired to become her henchmen.
And that’s about all there is to the film. The three Minions are largely one note. Kevin is determined to save his tribe. Bob is the childlike innocent. Stuart is just along for the ride with no real purpose. Additionally, the Minions speak in a mixture of English, French, Spanish, and gibberish as voiced by co-director Pierre Coffin. The one area of casting that I did enjoy is Michael Keaton and Allison Janney as an amateur villain couple driving to VillainCon with their kids to see Scarlet Overkill. The Minions hitch a ride with them and they have some amusing, though brief, comedic moments. The idea of Scarlet Overkill is a decent one. Unfortunately, Sandra Bullock phones in her performance, reducing what could have been a strong female villain to a cardboard husk. Jon Hamm is also along for the ride to try to be funny as Scarlet’s husband Herb, but his part is largely irrelevant to the paper thin plot and his scenes offer some odd attempts at black comedy.
The film tries to cover for the plot’s absurd thinness in the only way it knows how – pratfalls and slapstick from the Minions. Slapstick from the Minions worked in Despicable Me because it was rare, making it funnier and more effective. When a film uses such efforts in great quantity and tries to fill 90 minutes, the comedic value is heavily reduced to almost zero. Minions also tries to mix things in for adults, such as a reference to The Beatles or by having a great classic rock soundtrack. But these little tidbits fall on deaf ears because the idiocy and weakness of the attempted comedy overwhelms everything.
Minions is a film I wanted to like. I love Despicable Me and even like/defend Despicable Me 2, despite its flaws. But Minions is a whole different beast. The characterization is thin. The voice work is weak. The plot is almost non-existent. Ultimately, Minions is the cinematic equivalent of jingling keys – an agonizing and meaningless effort that only tarnishes the reputation of a preceding film.