Tuesday, July 21, 2015

MINIONS!


Among the more pleasant surprises in animated films over the last few years has been the two Despicable Me movies. Centered around would be world conquering super villain Gru, expertly voiced by Steve Carell, both movies have very entertaining with a visual style and story rhythm distinctive from many of its other more cookie-cutter animated counterparts. Behind the scenes, helping Gru brings his plans and schemes to life, are his Minions, a collecting of odd, pill shaped yellow creatures who speak in a mostly indecipherable syntax. Their comic escapades as they run amok in the background have been very amusing. People can’t get enough of Minions.







Can a feature film be built around them? The answer is, yes.


Yes it can be done. But is such an endeavor any good?







Well…









First of all, let me say this: I came out of watching Minions this weekend past weekend rather entertained. Of course the bar was set pretty low. I mean, we’re talking about spending 90 minutes with a humanoid Twinkies who speak in a language of weird noises. Also the last movie I saw was Terminator Genysis. So yeah, the bar was pretty low indeed. 




But that being said, there was a lot to be genuinely commended about Minions.

  • Most of the action is set in 1968 and the soundtrack is perfect for the era. If you’re stuck taking your kids and not quite getting what the deal is with these strange yellow dudes, just kick back and enjoy the tunes.
  • The focus is on 3 particular Minions: Kevin, Stuart & Bob. And we actually come to care about these strange little dudes and begin to identify with them as individuals, a neat trick to pull off with characters who communicate with random sounds and noises.
  • I want to see more of the bank robbing family that Kevin, Stuart & Bob meet early in the movie. Headed up by a mom and dad voiced by Allison Janney & Michael Keaton, this is a gonzo group that straddles 1960’s white middle class suburbia and a wild lifestyle of robbing banks.


And the big get for me: Scarlet Overkill.  
























She’s an insane, psychotic, over the top  criminal crazy. Sandra Bullock voices Scarlet who swings from sweet to sociopath with alarming fluidity.


And I think I’m in love!







There are some points that waffle between “kinda funny” and “meh”. A lot of action takes place in England and yes, we get it, the English like to drink tea. It’s a recurring gag that elicits a mild chuckle early on but doesn’t get any funnier. And the climax of the film gives in to “the bigger the spectacle, the better” action finale that plagues most summer films, including a Minion increased to massive size and a nuclear explosion.





And then there’s Herb, Scarlet’s husband  who also develops her super weapons. Herb’s kind of a cool guy who’s just in this super villain stuff for a laugh and it makes the missus happy. Herb, however, remains frustratingly underdeveloped. Perhaps I can pin that on Jon Hamm who provides the voice of Herb. We know Jon can bring the funny from his successful appearances on Saturday Night Live but I think someone stronger could’ve sparked a more nuanced performance. And given the English setting, perhaps actually casting an actor from the UK would’ve helped. I know I beat people over the head here in this blog with my constant references to Doctor Who but I can’t help but think Matt Smith would’ve been perfect as Herb. 


To end this review on a good note, there is a very sweet cameo at the end that links Minions back to Despicable Me.


At the very least, Minions did no damage to the Despicable Me franchise and is overall a very enjoyable diversion. 




Well, that's all for me. I'll be back with another post tomorrow. In the meantime, remember to...



OK, let's try that again.



Now, that's better!


Dave-El

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