What’s the only thing more challenging than being a “Part 2” follow-up film to a wildly successful first film? Being a “Part 3,” of course. Minions, the new animated feature about everybody’s favorite capsule-shaped, overall-wearing, begoggled, bad-guy-serving, yellow-hued, strange-speaking, banana-loving… things, isn’t a “Part 3” in the strictest sense of the word. It’s actually a prequel, taking place “B.G.” – Before Gru, the original Despicable in the first two films, Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 – but it is the third major motion picture in the Minions universe, and expectations have soared sky-high since the first film became an unexpected hit 5 years ago.
Indeed, when Despicable Me was first released in 2010, no one really had any idea what the heck these little yellow fellows were all about – in fact, they weren’t even the focus of the film! They existed primarily to give the movie, a story essentially about bad guys beating each other up, a more “kid-friendly” vibe. But the weird little goobers resonated with kids and adults alike, quickly gaining some serious pop-culture cred and ensuring that we’d see them featured in more films – which is where we find ourselves today, as they star as the center of attention for the very first time.
When I mentioned earlier that the movie takes place “Before Gru,” I wasn’t kidding: the film’s opening credits actually take us to the dawn of life on Earth, where we see Minions evolving as their own strain of single-celled organism. Via some quick-cut scenes, it becomes apparent right away – with additional assistance from the narration of the ably-voiced Geoffrey Rush – that the little guys have one primary purpose in their lives: to serve the biggest, baddest master that they can find. If you’ve seen any of the previews for the film, you likely know all of this already; in fact, the first 45 minutes or so of the film are pretty well covered in the 3-to-4 minute previews that have been inundating TV screens and playing before other movies over the last year or so. This could make for a slow-feeling start to the film for some, so consider yourself warned.
Once the story moves past the oral-history narrative and into the actual tale of what the Minions are up to these days, we get some fairly typical movie tropes: characters in a strange land, characters tasked with a mission, mission completed but doesn’t go as planned, characters spend rest of the movie trying to make things right (while learning valuable personal lessons and defeating the “truly” bad guys along the way). Of course, the fact that the little yellow buggers are, at their core, on the side of evil themselves, the tale comes with varying levels of “evil.” Three of the Minions – leader/explorer Kevin, fame-monger Stuart, and so-cute-but-so-dumb Bob – set out on a quest from the polar cave where the group of Minions has planted its roots, in order to find a new master to serve. Set in the 1960s, their journey takes them to Villain-Con in Orlando, via New York, where they wind up in the employ of Scarlet Overkill, the world’s first female villain. She wants to steal the crown of the Queen of England for herself, but when the Minions accidentally end up as the new rulers of the country, Scarlet works to exact her revenge.
The voice acting features several big Hollywood names, including Sandra Bullock voicing Scarlet Overkill. The lead villain, I’m sure, was meant to be extremely menacing and intimidating, but Scarlet comes across mostly bland; this is due in part to Bullock’s fairly vanilla line reads, but also because Scarlet’s husband Herb (voiced with an equal level of non-maliciousness by Jon Hamm) is the real brains behind the operation. Is this simply a marriage/partnership thing, or a subtle dig that even “the world’s first female supervillain” needs a man to help her? That’s for you to decide, I suppose. Other folks turning in fun vocal work on this film include Steve Coogan, Allison Janney, Michael Keaton, and – the true stars of the film and the entire series, in my humble opinion – Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud handling the majority of the work in voicing the entire slew of adorable, nonsensical Minions themselves. Also, keep your eyes and ears peeled for one or two faces and voices you might recognize from the first two films – no spoilers here, though, sorry!
My verdict on the film: it is a fun and enjoyable one, even if the story itself isn’t very strong. Those darn Minions are just so stinking goofy, it’s hard to watch them and not be entertained. This is a definitely a film aimed primarily at the younger crowd, so do keep that in mind; I got to see the movie with a big group of my family that totaled six adults and three kids under six, and all of us laughed fairly often throughout the entire film. In terms of where Minions falls in line with the other two films: no other Minion-centric tale will likely ever come close to matching the unexpectedly-awesome ride of Despicable Me, and my internal jury is still out on whether this film is of a higher comedic caliber than Despicable Me 2. It’s serviceable for a summer film, and you’re definitely guaranteed to laugh and smile during the film, if for nothing else than realizing the fact that you are, in fact, being entertained by babbling golden midget Tic-Tacs.