Sunday, July 12, 2015

Brief thoughts on Minions.

I don’t consider myself a fan of the Despicable Me films. I typically find their Looney Tunes style manic humor utterly vapid and inconsistently written. However, if there’s anything I’ve enjoyed about these films, its Gru’s scene-stealing yellow minions. Without their delightful gibberish talk and slapstick antics, I doubt either of those films would have been half as successful as they were.

It would appear even Illumination Entertainment was aware of this, as distributor Universal Pictures has essentially milked the characters for all they’re worth with t-shirts, toys, short films, theme park rides and meet and greets, all the way down to a real-time strategy mobile game from Electronic Arts. So, it’s with all that in mind that Minions feels exactly like all of that; a marketing scheme that further capitalizes on the success of the characters.

Both the best and the worst things about the movie revolve single-handedly around the minions themselves. The first fifteen minutes centers on incredibly dark humor in which they move from master to master, all of which suffer untimely fates. The opening also moves the basic premise of the film into full motion, and it’s after this that the film immediately loses all momentum. Very seldom does it ever live up to the inspiration of the prologue, as do the minions themselves.

The minions are endearing characters that steal the show whenever they appear in the Despicable films, but this movie really shows just how overexposed they are. The characters are very comparable to the nature of Scrat from Ice Age, in that they’re both slapstick based characters with effective comedy in brief fits, and even short films. However, Minions is like if Scrat had gotten his own feature film, as the characters increasingly overstay their welcome, and their once delightful antics quickly become an annoyance and an object of boredom, especially because the minions feel so interchangeable and thinly written that they have no unique personalities to set them apart. It falls into the state of “more, more, more”, with the filmmakers not realizing that 90 minutes at ten can become just as boring as 90 minutes at one. The whole thing becomes a vapid string of skits and gags grouped together along the bare bones pretense of any actual narrative, coupled with manic energy that doesn’t have the substance to back itself up.

Because of this, the human characters are mostly wasted, with bit characters lacking any personality beyond the big name actors recording their lines. Michael Keaton and Allison Janney show up for five minutes in the first half hour, and make five second cameos throughout the rest of the film. Geoffrey Rush contributes some droll narration to bookend the film. The most shockingly bad voiceover comes from Jon Hamm, who is a fantastic comedian, but sounds completely disinterested as he coasts his way to a paycheck with such little passion. It’s in this barren space of comedy that Sandra Bullock comes in to try and hold this movie together, relishing the opportunity to play up her character’s maniacal and charismatically malicious personality to the extreme. The actual character is as two-dimensional as it gets, but Bullock infuses it with so much more effort than the movie deserves.

All in all, Minions will undoubtedly be a major money-maker, but it has nothing on the best animated features out there, including current competition from the infinitely superior Inside Out. In other words, I'm not a fan. “Sayonara, papaya!”

** / *****

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