Leave the laughs, take the heart… While I’m goofing here on the “Godfather,” my parody statement pretty much sums up “Minions,” an amusing continuation of the humorous side of the “Despicable Me” franchise. But without Gru and his little girls, the laughs alone may not be enough.
The minions, a wonderfully comedic creation from the “Despicable Me” films, get their own outing with this feature bearing their name. “Minions” is an origin story prequel that dates back to the beginning of time. We learn that the minions have always been with us, and their “tribe” perpetually serves the biggest, baddest villain available. In a fantastically funny set-up, the minions are shown helping “villains” (like Napoleon) throughout history. And having the minions as your henchman sidekicks proves to be unhealthy. Most of those they work for experience violent and unpleasant deaths, which means the minions have to move on to another master.
This set-up sequence is the funniest thing in the film. Sadly, the punch of it has been spoiled by the trailers, especially the early ones that almost completely revealed this sequence. And “Minions” certainly could have used more of that early promise, because it gets pretty silly fast.
After living for many years without a master in the frozen North, three minions leave the tribe in search of a new villain with whom they and their numerous kin-folk will bond. So, Kevin, Stuart, and Bob (all voiced by co-director Pierre Coffin) pack their bags and make their way first to New York City, then to Orlando, and eventually to jolly old England. Along the way, the yellow threesome encounter many interesting characters eventually finding themselves in the employ of super villain Scarlett Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock). And once in England things get crazy especially as the Queen (voiced by “Absolutely Fabulous” alum Jennifer Saunders) becomes the object of Scarlett Overkill’s attention.
This is where the silliness starts and the whole thing becomes a bit monotonous. Film critics, including this one, struggled to stay awake as a minion rises to power in the United Kingdom. And this rise is completely ludicrous. Lacking any hint of credibility, I have to say the story lost me and the minion slapstick gags became less and less humorous. Sure, the youngest viewers will still be entertained, but unlike the first two films that inspired this one, there’s little for the older audience members to care about. And sadly, nothing in “Minions” approaches the genuine sentiment that made “Despicable Me 2” really special.
It does help that the soundtrack features great rock and pop hits of the 1960s. But the music can’t make the story work. And while familiar tunes help smooth the edges, “Minions” is really just a series of sight gags that become less and less funny as the movie plays out its scant running time.
Funny, but lacking the emotional connection that made the first two films really memorable, “Minions” is just a bridge to the next “Despicable Me” film that, after the immense box office success of this one, is inevitable.