Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Movie Review: Minions

Directed by: Kyle Balda & Pierre Coffin.
Written by: Brian Lynch.
Starring: Sandra Bullock (Scarlett Overkill), Jon Hamm (Herb Overkill), Michael Keaton (Walter Nelson), Allison Janney (Madge Nelson), Steve Coogan (Professor Flux / Tower Guard), Jennifer Saunders (The Queen), Geoffrey Rush (Narrator), Pierre Coffin (The Minions).

I have a daughter who is just about 4 years old – and she could not wait to see Minions. Yeah, she wanted to see Inside Out too a few weeks ago, but I was definitely more excited about that film than she was. But every time Minions came on TV in a commercial, she would get excited. While I take my daughter to pretty much all the animated children’s fare that comes out, I am also well aware that most of it is aimed at children older than she is – there is very little aimed directed at her. Minions, however, is. It may well be her favorite movie she’s ever seen in a theater (well, except Frozen – but I’m not sure she even remembers we took her to see that one). Minions is the perfect movie for a 4 year old.

Now whether that means Minions is perfect for anyone else is open for debate. Because the movie revolves around three of those little, yellow, pill shaped creatures who do not speak English, there isn’t much in the way of character development, dialogue or even plot going in during the runtime of Minions. The filmmakers here don’t follow the lead of something like Wall-E – Pixar’s masterpiece, which had very little dialogue for its first half. That film trusted children with things like visual storytelling, which Minions doesn’t. It adds a narrator – Geoffrey Rush – and even if the Minions aren’t saying anything we can understand, they rarely shut up. The main human characters -   super villain Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and her husband Herb (Jon Hamm), who the Minions want to work for, can barely get a word in edgewise. Bullock, a gifted comedic performer, isn’t really given anything to do. Hamm fares better, because the filmmakers at least let him be goofy.

The movie is mainly set in the 1960s – or in the movies terms 40 odd years BG (Before Gru), and is basically one 1960s related joke after another, with a soundtrack full of the biggest hits from the era – something, I suppose, designed to evoke nostalgia in any grandparents who happen to be taking their kids to the movie. Some of these jokes are clever, but for the most part, they are thuddingly obvious – and it seems like a missed opportunity to have Hamm in the cast, and not make some Mad Men jokes.

The Despicable Me franchise is one of diminishing returns – the legitimately charming original film remains a lot of fun, but the sequel, and even more so in Minions, is busy and hyper active from the start – and in many ways headache inducing. What started as a clever idea, has gotten old quickly. Audiences don’t seem to mind though – in fact, they are showing up more and more in each passing movie – the original made $251 million, the sequel $368 million, and this one ranked in $115 in its opening weekend. Clearly, 4 year olds are driving many purchasing decisions.

And in the end, I’m not sure I mind that. My daughter had an absolute blast at Minions – and while I didn’t have nearly as much fun, who cares? The movie isn’t for me – it’s for her. The film plays to its target audience – and the member of that audience in my family absolutely loved it. The closer you are to her age, the more you’ll probably enjoy Minions.

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