Editor’s Note: Electroshadow’s favourite writer Marie B is back! This round, she takes a look at the phenomenon that is Illumination Entertainment’s Minions. Is their brand of slapstick, gibberish-spouting humour enough to carry a whole movie? Let’s find out…
There is something undeniably endearing about the Minions. How else would you explain the worldwide phenomenon of these small, yellow, jumper-clad creatures that look like medicine capsules with eyes? From their humble beginnings as supporting cast in the “Despicable Me” franchise, they’ve quickly established themselves as superstars. All you have to do is look at the McDonald’s Happy Meal for proof.
But are they big enough headline their own movie? Can their little shoulders actually carry the burden of being the lead stars?
And also, yes.
The best thing about the Minions in the first 2 “Despicable Me” films was that they weren’t the main drivers of the movie. They were doled out to the audience in short bursts of random silliness, like an intermission in between the narrative of Gru and the girls. They filled the screen for just a few minutes at a time, but each time we saw them, they entertained us with such rich ridiculousness that it made us look forward to the next dose. But when you need to fill 90 minutes with Minion-isms, then it’s unlikely you’ll get the same quality as a quick 2-minute gag.
This is exactly what happens in their standalone film, aptly named “Minions”. Part origin story, part prequel, and mostly sketch comedy, the movie follows the story of Bob, Kevin and Stuart, three Minions on a quest to preserve their purpose (and their… species?): find and serve an evil master. Set in the era of B.G. (Before Gru), we watch the Minions latch onto and lose master after master until they stumble upon female supervillain, Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and her husband Herb (Jon Hamm). As Scarlet’s new henchmen, the trio are assigned a mission to steal the Queen of England’s Crown Jewels. Needless to say, hijinks ensue. Amidst all the fumbling and the bumbling, we get what will pass off as the customary character arc that lead characters should go through.
It’s a thinly-written plot that just marginally gives you a story to follow. What it really does, however, is provide a backdrop for every sort of gag that the writers could think of and throw in. From the slightly more enlightened Comic Con “Hall H” references, to slapstick staples of getting hit with a stick, to your basic butt shots, it’s all in there. You almost get the feeling that they thought of the gags first and retrofitted the story around it later. Thankfully, they stop short of engaging in toilet humour and keep most of it clean enough for younger audience members.
What happens is that you have a movie that’s high in quantity, but uneven in quality. Some jokes elicit laughs; some elicit giggles and some you just ruefully smile at. And because it concentrates more on the sketches than on anything else, there’s really very little that it adds to what you already know about the Minions. They are exactly the same cheeky, adorable little mischief-makers you’ve known and loved 2 movies ago.
As it turns out, that’s not a bad thing. It is precisely because these characters behave in exactly the way you want and expect that the movie works. It may not deliver the same level of laughs on each joke, but it delivers on the most basic promise a movie makes to its viewers: to entertain. The story and plot twists are a far second to the emotional investment audiences have made in these characters, even before they set foot inside the cinema.
It’s like watching your 2-year-old son run across the room over and over again. He’s not necessarily doing anything funny, but you think he’s adorable anyway. So it is with the Minions. They’ve already won our hearts. This movie is just reminding us why we don’t want to take it back.