Minions

  

There are some people who find the minions really funny. If you listen to the Radio 5 Live Film Show you will know that Mark Kermode is one of them. I’m not though, I never really have been and that hasn’t changed having watched this new movie.

You may choose to stop reading at this point, confident in the knowledge that this guy just doesn’t get it, and head off to find the opinions of someone with similar sensibilities to you. If you are still with me though then I will endeavour to explain why I think this film has missed the mark.

I don’t think lifting the minions out of the context of the Despicable Me movies is the problem. They have always been tied into Gru and the girls’ stories, certainly far more than Scrat in the Ice Age series whose activities sit in those pictures like little stand alone cartoons, but I believe they are still capable of carrying a narrative by themselves. They have proved this to some extent in their three little shorts involving respectively the decorating of Gru’s house, a fight over a banana and being on bomb carrying duty.

In these five minute films I did find their antics quite entertaining because the humour is built on early cinematic traditions of silent comedy and slap stick. This element of their characters is played down in this new feature though in favour of lots and lots of the babbling and gobbledygook which the film makers seem to think is their most amusing trait. (One of the directors does all of the minion voice work, this may have something to do with it.)

You could argue that a longer film can not be sustained on this type of visual humour alone but the work of people like Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd conclusively prove this not to be the case. I know we are now in a very different age and animation is a very different medium but this argument doesn’t hold either as evidenced by Aardman’s glorious Shaun the Sheep film which was like watching a woolly claymation Buster Keaton for eighty five glorious minutes.

Rather than play on the minions status as some kind of Keystone Twinkies though this new film immerses them in an overly confused and disjointed plot. First we trace the minions from their early evolution and witness their adventures with dinosaurs and Neanderthal man. Then the movie, conveniently and incredulously, dumps them in an ice cave for three million years so that the rest of the story can be set in the 1960s. I’m not sure if we are picking up with the self same seemingly immortal minions at this point or whether it’s their ancestors but the film doesn’t seem too worried about this so maybe I shouldn’t be either. Once in the decade of The Beatles three of the little guys, Kevin, Stuart and Bob, head off on a mission involving a bad guy convention, the British monarchy and Excalibur which at this time is apparently still embedded in a stone in central London waiting for the nation’s true king to pull it out. (I presume this is a gag but based on some American movie’s grasp of UK culture and history I can’t be sure.) It is all very random.

I had hoped this film might be a cut above the regular mediocre kiddy fair such as Home, Rio and Madagascar but in the end it’s not. My local Odeon has an over 18s screening of this movie but I’m not sure why you’d want to go if you weren’t taking kids.

Incidentally, my kids really liked it.


The Ripley Factor:

Children’s films tend not to be scrutinised on their gender politics but perhaps they should be. Young minds and all that. There have been some animations recently with excellent female role models, Toy Story 3, Arrietty, Epic, Coraline and actually Despicable Me 2 among them. Minions gives us Sandra Bullock’s Scarlett Overkill as the biggest, meanest, toughest, smartest villain of them all, and while she is the bad guy and as such picks up on some outdated Disney fairy tale conventions, she is a strong and confident woman. It is a shame then that she is ultimately not very interesting. I do like the fact that she can be both an empowered female and a loving wife but ultimately she is just a female version of the bland and forgettable antagonists, Vector and El Macho, from the Despicable Me films. I found the family of wannabe super villains a lot more watchable. They should have concentrated more on them.


Is this one for the kids?

Minions is rated U and has little to offend or upset so is definitely one for the kids. It just isn’t one for the adults as well, not unless you find this kind of thing funny which I understand some people do.

 

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One thought on “Minions

  1. I had to scroll back quite a long time to finally find this review – it has only just arrived on the island, despite the incredible lead up the film had – adverts for the forthcoming film seemed to come out in January?! I guess on the islands, we don’t need much to entertain us, and so in our penultimate week of summer holidays (yes, we even have to go back to school in August!) this was a great family film! We don’t get out much, but the mix of stoopid humour for the kids and a well loved soundtrack from the 60s for the adults, we were Laughing Out Loud all the way through. Still enjoyed your take on it too though 🙂

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