MOVIE MAN

Hyperactive minions deliver animated laughs

By Movie Man | Published Wednesday, July 15, 2015

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The first “Despicable Me” (2010, Movie Man No. 885, 7) was mighty good even without those strange, gibberish-uttering yellow beings devoted to Gru running around everywhere.

It was the critters that took off in popularity, however, and the public still can’t get enough.

ABOUT THE FILM

“Minions” is a cinematic kin to the “Penguins of the Madagascar.” The creatures and penguins were not part of the central plot of their films, but they caught eyes.

However, while “Penguins of Madagascar” (2014, MM No. 1115, 7) did not perform nearly as well as experts expected at $83.3 million, “Minions” has exceeded already high expectations.

The movie just missed being the biggest weekend ever for an animated movie. At $115.2 million, “Minions” passed all but “Shrek the Third” (2007, MM No. 178, 6), which took in $121.6 million its first weekend.

THE PLOT (SPOILERS)

“Minions” have evolved through time, initially teeny devoted critters following microscopic beasties then dinosaurs, cavemen, the Dark Ages and the Napoleonic Era until they find themselves alone.

That’s when they build their own civilization in a giant cave. But Minion Kevin with cohorts Bob and one-eyed Stuart head out to find a new villain to follow. They venture to Villain-Con in Orlando in 1968, catching a ride from New York City with the evil but happy Nelson family – with parents voiced by Michael Keaton and Allison Janney – who stop to rob a bank along the way.

In Orlando, the Minions impress the ultimate villain, Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and her husband Herb (Jon Hamm). They hire the Minions, and Scarlett sends the yellow threesome to steal the Queen of England’s (Jennifer Saunders) crown.

After the theft and a madcap race through London, Scarlett is soon pursuing the Minions, too. She might be successful, but a young boy named Gru (Steve Carell) has perfected a freeze ray – an invention that sends the Minions gleefully after him, to serve this up-and-coming villain.

WHAT WORKS

The gibberish of the Minions occasionally is understandable and, even when it’s not, their point it made. It’s smart and funny for all ages – even right off the bat as the Minions “sing” the Universal Studios theme.

The first 20 minutes of the movie zip along and the biggest laughs come early. (See Best scene.)

The animation is super all the way through. Sometimes the screen fills with hundreds of Minions and other times cityscapes are beautifully rendered. Sometimes the animation is intentionally cruder, and it happens again over the end credits.

The soundtrack is fantastic, one that older viewers will especially revel in. (Music nuts will know the end credits song – Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow” – long before the words arrive.)

BEST SCENE

The evolution of the Minions is wonderful. While too many of the laughs are in the trailer (bummer), the lengthy sequence of the early years of the yellow fellows is witty and funny.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

The biggest surprise is that Bullock isn’t that great. The Movie Man is a big fan of hers, and he was very surprised that her voice work was average at best.

Early indications – trailers – were that the movie looked to be very funny. That’s not the case. In fact, once Scarlett shows up, the film slows in pace and humor. “Minions” is just not as funny as it should be.

The 3-D process – often used to great effect in animated movies – has a few nice moments, i.e., Scarlett’s pointy plane; some drifting confetti; but overall, several in-yo’-face opportunities seem to be wasted.

THE RATING

The PG is for comic nudity jokes, Minion booties. It’s all mild.

SUMMING UP

The Movie Man was a bit disappointed in “Minions.” However, Movie Kids with him – 8 and 3 – were not. They laughed a lot.

NEXT UP

“Ant-Man”

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