********* 6 out of 10 *********
Director: Kyle Balda & Pierre Coffin
Actors: Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock, John Hamm
The animation studio Illumination Entertainment surprised us pleasantly back in 2010 with its first ever release titled Despicable Me. The movie, where a villain was the hero, had a wacky premise that made it stand out in the highly competitive arena of the animation industry. It had a lot of depth, mixing the emotional moments around the three orphans with the hilarious comedy of strange yellow-colored beings, without missing out on an action-packed adventure, and no wonder Despicable Me was quite a hit with the audience and critics. The followup, Despicable Me 2 of 2013, took the story forward, but kept that emotional balance right once more, and became one of the biggest hits in the animation world, falling only marginally short of the billion dollar mark at the worldwide box-office. The studio then decided to focus the story on the adorable minions in a prequel / spin-off. No one can argue that the minions did not deserve their standalone movie. But they deserved a movie which was as tightly knit in its story as the previous Despicable Me films. That is where Minions falls short, as the studio has carved out a rather lazy storyline, which is saved only now and then by the comedy of the minions themselves.
In Minions, we are introduced to the evolutionary trajectory of the minions right from the opening credits. It is explained to us by the narrator that the minions are always eager to serve the most villainous boss of the present time. But they are driven to a secluded area due to a mishap with one of the bosses, and there they live for ages, in a state of depression, away from their sole purpose of serving an evil boss. To bring them out of their stupor, one brave minion, Kevin, decides to embark on a long journey to find their next boss. Accompanying him are two other minions – Bob and Stuart. Together, the trio reach the shores of USA in 1968, where they are about to meet one of the wickedest villains of that period, Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock). The minions are about to fulfil their destiny, but as always, things will surely go wrong.
The initial premise of the movie sounds interesting, and in fact it explains a lot about the minions and their nature. The first fifteen minutes or so of the movie are really hilarious, and the joy of watching the silly antics of the minions resurges back quickly. This had the potential to be a great backstory in the pre-Gru era. But alas, it falls short of expectations. Writer Brian Lynch seems to run out of ideas as to how to create an adventure that would make sense in a film where its lead characters seem funnier in their senseless antics. It was a challenge that I feel Brian Lynch could not rise upto. Lynch has in fact not worked on either of the previous two movies in this series, so his choice to write the script for Minions does not seem to be a wise one in hindsight. Another reason for the failure of the storyline could be that in the previous movies Gru and his criminal / personal life formed the foundation around which the minions were simply having fun and entertaining us. Now that foundation was removed, and returning directors Kyle Balda & Pierre Coffin could not hold things together as the minions ran amok. The movie does give some rather hilarious moments, though they are more of standalone funny sequences, which do not necessarily elevate the quality of the movie. The animation work is once again bright and colorful, and would definitely be enjoyed by the young ones, who are after all the key target audience.
The trio – Kevin, Bob and Stuart – do come across as adorable, each with his personality very well-defined. They have a lot of love for one another, an aspect that did not find focus in the Despicable Me movies and so needed Minions to bring that out. The voices of all the minions has been once again given by director Pierre Coffin, and it is simply terrific. There is joy, laughter, sadness, anxiety, and a lot more in those unintelligible words, and that is what keeps the audience connected to the film, as the story is in tatters all around. Sandra Bullock is fantastic as the villain Scarlett Overkill, altering her pitch in short bursts, to add a certain creepiness to her character. John Hamm is wonderful too as Herb Overkill, the husband of Scarlett, with a slow yet captivating voice that makes his character quite entertaining to watch. Michael Keaton and Allison Jenney voice the Nelsons, who have a brief but action-packed role. Jennifer Saunders makes the Queen sound kick-ass, while Geoffrey Rush in his opening narration is as polished and captivating as ever. And yep, Steve Carell returns as Gru in a nice brief role that ties-up Minions with Despicable Me quite well.
Minions is one of those movies that you wait for the better part of a year, and so are bound to have way too many expectations with it. In some scenes it does meet them as well, but for the rest of the movie, you are left wondering on what it could have been. Watch it, have a few good laughs, and then forget it, but if Minions 2 is ever attempted, then they better sort out the plot first. The adorable yellow beings deserve something much more memorable!