“MINIONS” — ★★★ — voices of Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney; PG (action, rude humor); in general release
“Minions” is exactly the kind of movie you’d expect it to be. It’s fun, clever and silly. It should pull laughs from the little kids as well as the adults buying their tickets. It shouldn’t inspire an epic trilogy or break box-office records, but it’s a fun family option.
“Minions” is essentially a 91-minute origin story for the googly-eyed, Cheeto-shaped henchmen of the Despicable Me franchise. Without Steve Carell's Gru on board to drive the narrative, the question is: How much of a full-length film can the sidekicks carry?
The answer? Just a little less than the film’s 91-minute run time.
An extended prologue sets the stage. The Minions (all voiced by Pierre Coffin, who co-directs with Kyle Balda) have been around since prehistoric times, they always latch on to the nastiest character around, and the running gag is that somehow they always manage to get that character killed. A quick montage shows the Minions working for a T-rex, the ancient Egyptians and even Napoleon, all with disastrous results.
Eventually their bad luck sends the group into an icy Antarctic exile, where the Minions try to kill time until finding a new “boss” to claim them. As the story opens, a brave trio of volunteers — Kevin, Stuart and Bob — venture out into the world in search of diabolical leadership.
What they find is the late 1960s, in all of its multicolored, psychedelic glory. After a quick stop in New York City, the trio hooks up with an evil mastermind named Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock) at a villain convention in Orlando, and the future looks bright yellow.
Overkill gives the Minions a special mission: If they can steal the crown jewels of England, they have a permanent gig. Anything less, and their long and checkered history could be at an end.
The plot is pretty linear, but it offers plenty of space for goofy sight gags and kooky behavior from the headliners. Bullock has fun as the over-the-top baddie, and Jon Hamm does a solid job as her husband, Herb.
The animation is clever and eye-grabbing, and classic rock and oldies fans will enjoy the late ‘60s soundtrack, punctuated by period standards from The Doors, The Who and The Kinks. (Also keep an eye out for a unique take on “Hair,” from the Broadway musical.)
Coffin and company wisely narrow the Minion field to three in order to give the film some sense of a central protagonist. But even with some unique visual and personality cues, Kevin, Stuart and Bob can’t quite generate anything more than surface-level characters.
The Minions' indecipherable language — a chaotic mix of English, Spanish, French and filler gibberish — is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the language is what makes the Minions so cute. But when your protagonist can’t use real dialogue, full characterization is limited.
The ideal audience for “Minions” will be Despicable Me fans, but its greatest function will be giving parents a family friendly alternative to “Inside Out.” “Inside Out” is a vastly superior film, but there’s nothing wrong with a change of pace.
“Minions” is a fun backstory for a popular group of sidekicks, but it really shouldn’t extend beyond that. It does a good job with what it has, but it won’t leave you asking for more.
“Minions” is rated PG for action and rude humor; running time: 91 minutes.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. Find him online at facebook.com/joshterryreviews.