MINIONS

MINIONS

By Gary Murray

Starring the voice talents of Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Steve Carell and Michael Keaton

Written by Brian Lynch

Directed by Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin

Running time 91 min

MPAA Rating PG

Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE

 

All of the studios are slowly coming to realize that family films do much better business than R rated outings.  Yes, the Academy rants and raves over gritty faire in the art house multiplex but the dollar votes are thrown toward films that both little kids and grandparents can enjoy. 

A perfect example is the Despicable Me films, which have now become a major franchise for Universal Studios.  The first flick was a 2010 film that grossed about 250 million and a sequel Despicable Me 2 generated a cool $360 million.  The side-kick characters dubbed ‘the minions’ were a popular element of both works, more popular that Gru (Steve Carell) the master villain.  Now, the Minions have their own spin-off movie called The Minions.  It is one of the wackiest films more reminiscent of Laurel & Hardy and Harold Lloyd with a twist of The Three Stooges thrown in.

The film starts with 2D style animation and the beginning of time.  We are told by the narrator (Geoffrey Rush) that the minions have been with us since the beginning.  They evolved into their Twinkie-like appearance before the dawn of man and the dawn of 3D films.  They have a single purpose, to follow the most evil leader in the world.  At first they follow a T-Rex but find that brawn does not equal brains.

Eventually they decide to follow early cave man but find that he doesn’t have the brains to overcome brawn.  Over the centuries they find that many of the bad rulers are not that bad.  They have a run-in with both Dracula and Napoleon before giving up and living in a frozen fortress of solitude in the wastelands.  All of this exposition takes only a few minutes and it roaringly hilarious.

This self-imposed exile lasts a few hundred years when one minon Kevin (Pierre Coffin) decides that they need to send a team to investigate the world and find the most evil person to follow.  He assembles a team which includes Bob and Steve not the first two picks of Kevin.

The world they enter is 1968.  Almost instantly, the trio hooks up with a family of crazed criminals Walter and Madge Nelson (Michael Keaton and Allison Janney).  Just when one thinks that the film is going to become a twisted Bennie and Clyde, the film becomes an English heist flick; which were the rage of the 1960s. 

The Minions hook-up with Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and Herb Overkill (Jon Hamm) as they try to take on the greatest heist in the history of the world.  The other part of the plot is of the other minions looking for their three lost siblings.  To give away any more would spoil the ending. And stay until the very ending.  The entire cast takes a final bow like they do in the theater but to the music of the Beatles.  Okay, no more spoilers.

This film is just a joy to watch and is the kind of film that will be watched over and over again.  It is made for multiple viewings, with little bits of comedy happening in just about every corner of the screen.  A valiant viewer is probably going to watch it 6 or more times just to catch the momentary action going on in each corner.

Many wonder if it is worth the extra money to catch a film in 3D.  This one is a big yes.  Not only does one get the staid old tricks of things being lunged at the screen work perfectly, there is the layered effect that has become a faultless endeavor over the last few years.  This is a state of the art work.

The soundtrack becomes a part of the experience.  Much like Guardians of the Galaxy, this is a retro-pop sound experience.  Where Guardians had more of an FM pop feel, Minions went straight for AM bubblegum pop which works in spades.  The film is full of pop icons from that long-forgotten era, still as fresh as they were almost fifty years ago.

When the three principle actors are almost as silent as Harpo Marx, they have to rely on broad mannerisms and old-school comic gestures to make the slapstick happen.  And boy does it happen.  There are few moments where the audience is not roaring with laughter generated by their silly antics.  This is easily the funniest film of the year.

Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Steve Carell and Michael Keaton may be some of the stars in the film but the work belongs to those spongy little critters.  One could have cast Meryl Streep in a vocal role and it would not have mattered.  Those Minions would have overshadowed her vocal prowess. 

Simply put, The Minions is the most fun one will ave at a theater this year. It is yet another giant homerun for Universal, a tent pole film that will generate home video games and attractions at the Orlando studio. It could overpass Harry Potter one day.  If one is to catch just one summer blockbuster this season, catch The Minions.  It does not disappoint.

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