July 11, 2015
Since the first "Despicable Me" film (2010) and more in its 2013 sequel, those cute little yellow sidekicks constantly stole the thunder from under the lead character Gru. This was reminiscent of how the cute side characters like Puss N' Boots or the Penguins stole scenes in "Shrek" and "Madagascar" respectively, and got their own solo movies. It certainly was not a surprise that these Minions got their own solo project also.
This film was a prequel that spanned from the beginning of time on earth. Minions existed even before the first land creatures crawled out of the water. Since then, they would follow the most evil creature around like the T-Rex, probably for commensal reasons. Eventually they moved on to serving evil men, Dracula and Napoleon among them.
Because of their klutzy nature, they could not stay too long under one master. They all just retreated into their own snow-covered community, becoming very bored. So one day, a tall long-faced Minion named Kevin thought of venturing out to look for a master for them. For his quest, he had with him Stuart, a guitar-playing, single-eyed Minion and Bob, an adorably short Minion with mismatched-colored eyes and a teddy bear.
The trio trek all over the world, finding their way to Orlando, Florida in the year 1968 for Villain Con. There they meet the super-villainess Scarlet Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock), who just so happened to be looking for new henchmen. With hi-tech hippie age weaponry provided by her husband Herb (voiced by Jon Hamm), Scarlet sends the three Minions to steal Queen Elizabeth's crown for her. Will the Minions be able to pull off their big heist?
Despite some dips in the momentum, most of the film was action-packed and crazy fun. I especially liked the cultural references given the time period in the late 1968, as I am sure most adults will be. The Sydney Opera House under construction, the shows being shown on the black-and-white TV, the Abbey Road reference (although the crossing happened in 1969) -- I enjoyed these little tidbits of nostalgia the film provides. I also liked the musical soundtrack and how it complements the period when this film was set.
The story went in all directions in a rather scatterbrain way. It is also ironic and actually disturbing how a kiddie movie seemingly targeted for very young audiences had very dark and negative humor, like a bank robbery with kid accomplices or torturing Minions in a dungeon. That they made it look "cute" is not enough to erase the bad taste in the mouth. There were also some risque humor in the mix. Really, having a Minion wear a thong?!
I did not really like the character of Scarlet Overkill too much with her over-hysterical personality. (Sandra Bullock's voice work was only at her best during her "Bedtime Story" scene.) Her husband Herb was a lot cooler, making him the more interesting villain.
All this prequel was riding on was the popularity of the cute yellow Minions. For me, they were hilarious as the sidekick of Gru in the "Despicable Me" films. Unfortunately, for the Minions to carry one whole film with cuteness alone does not cut it. Hearing their gibberish language for an entire hour and a half can be tiresome. In fact, I felt I was relieved to finally see the boy Gru at the end. (That is not really a spoiler, isn't it? You knew he would be in there somehow.) Gru and the Minions are a great comedy team TOGETHER, not apart.
The little kids around me were quiet most of the film, only laughing briefly during the slapstick scenes. When I discussed this film with my own kids after we watched it, they also expressed that they found the film underwhelming and disappointing as a whole. So I conclude that it was not only because of my age that I found it so. 6/10.