Minions works as an age test the same way an amusement park does: Children will be awe struck by the pretty colors, commotion, whacky mascots and junk food. As an adult, you’ll try and have the same level of enthusiasm, possibly to not feel so old. But soon you will be worn down by all the festiveness and noise, soon with your hands on your temples you’ll exclaim, “When did everything get so loud! Knock off all this foolishness!”
On this scale I have officially entered adulthood. At first I found the start of Minions silly (famous side characters of the Despicable Me movies, whose beginnings on this planet will surely piss off Creationists), as their antics pushed them from serving one super villain to the next in a vignette that reminded me of the Looney Tunes. They even had the smooth narration of Geoffrey Rush (the English Morgan Freeman) to accommodate for their lack of discernible dialogue.
See, after failing to properly serve a master for all of eternity the Minions decide to set it upon themselves to find their true master once and for all. So the adventure follows Kevin, the eponymous leader with nothing really special about him; Stuart, the slacker, and; Bob the tiny cute one with a high voice and teddy bear who thinks rats are puppies. (who no doubt will be the most popular with children).
They soon stumble upon a secret villain convention meeting a litany of goofy amateur super villains they hope to make master. Standouts are a doctor who invented time travel only to bring another version of himself back with him and a Creature from the Black Lagoon monster who gets the best line (one I felt very embarrassed being the only one who laughed so hard at).
But the big baddie, the one they wish to serve, is Scarlett Overkill, voiced by Sandra Bullock who has never really gotten a chance to stretch this kind of acting muscle before. There’s something about being unhinged in voice acting that she embraces while also remembering to bring the gravitas needed for a villain. And, like everything else, she nails it, and also gets to have the suave-voiced Jon Hamm as an onscreen husband. Damn you, Bullock and your natural talent!
Needless to say a bombardment of disorienting, poorly structured hijinks followed, and as the Minions went further and further along my headache grew more and more. Everything from chase sequences throughout London, the numerous musical numbers and the overall destruction caused by the Minions became so loud and aimless I realized that my adult brain was not designed to handle the silliness overload. The mind needs to be so infantile for this frivolity to be absorbed that only a child is truly worthy to watch.
As I rested my head on the back of my seat, feeling as if I’d been on a roller coaster for 30 minutes, I realized I could not escape one gnawing question: Why the hell is there even a story for the guys and why are we pretending these walking sandbags are people?
What is so great about the Minions in the “Despicable Me” movies is that they aren’t really characters. No reason was necessary to explain where they came from nor complexity to make them relateable. They exist in the background, getting into shenanigans and smashing each other with oversized mallets—like the Three Stooges in pill form.
I never once thought watching those movies, “Wow, I really wanna see these guys go on a merry adventure where there’s nothing but their Spanish-French hybrid jibbersh for 100 minutes!” Frankly, the sketch-style opening is the only reason I enjoyed the first few minutes of Minions; I think this style is what would work best if the Minions are indeed going to have their own movie. What do people remember more: Looney Tunes: Back in Action or Bugs Bunny continuously thwarting Elmer Fudd in five minute segments?
Basically, I couldn’t escape the feeling that Minions should not be a movie in the traditional sense, but more a harkening back to the old school Saturday morning cartoons, where scenes move from sketch to sketch, each retrofitted with their own series of unique gags. These guys are built for variability and here they are stuck doing the same thing. Hell, I had more fun watching the Minions doing normal people stuff (vacuuming, reading the paper, etc) in the Me movies than many of the moments in their big screen debut.
Not to say the movie isn’t funny. Trust me, I belly laughed numerous times, but honestly I can recall most of those times being from jokes not done by the Minions, but more so the smaller characters—usually at jokes making fun of the British. But still, in trying to be more cute than funny the Minions take a back seat in their own movie, losing out to the side characters. If that isn’t irony I don’t know what is.
I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on a children’s movie. It is undoubtedly funny in spots, the voice acting for all the B-characters by A-list actors saves many moments, and all the chaos and colors will please the target audience, so I guess the film does its job. It’s just that the movie could’ve capitalized on the uniqueness of its characters in a way that creates something modern for kids, while also evoking nostalgia for their parents. But like I said, Minions is an amusement park of oddball humor and jibberish where the kids will be bouncing the whole way, while adults pop a few Motrin just to keep up.