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"MINIONS"
(2015) (voices of Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock) (PG)


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QUICK TAKE:
Computer Animated Comedy: Three goofball minions set out to find a new evil master and must contend with their new villain wanting to become the queen of England.
PLOT:
Ever since the dawn of time, small, yellow, cylindrical creatures known as Minions have served despicable masters, from T-Rexes to cavemen to Egyptian pharaohs, Napoleon and even Dracula. Unfortunately, for such villains, the minions usually end up accidentally causing their deaths, necessitating the need for new masters. Now that it's the 1968, the minions have fallen into lethargic depression, what with having spent decades holed up inside an ice cave without any master. One of them, however, has come up with an idea. Kevin (voice of PIERRE COFFIN) decides they should set out to find a new one and is joined by Stuart (voice of PIERRE COFFIN) who is volunteered by another minion as a joke, and Bob (voice of PIERRE COFFIN) who's allowed to come along due to the lack of any other volunteers.

After arriving in New York City, the three minions learn of a villain convention in Orlando and get a ride there from a family of bank robbers led by parents Walter (voice of MICHAEL KEATON) and Madge Nelson (voice of ALLISON JANNEY). Once at their destination, they see uber-villain Scarlett Overkill (voice of SANDRA BULLOCK) who's looking for new henchmen, and they end up fitting the bill.

Her goal, along with fellow villainous husband Herb (voice of JON HAMM), is to steal the crown belonging to Queen Elizabeth (voice of JENNIFER SAUNDERS) and become the reigning monarch of Britain. When that doesn't go as planned, Scarlett turns against the minions who must then save the day.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
A few years ago, I took over a spot on our vacation condo's association board. The outgoing member told me I was getting the best position, that of vice president, mainly because it sounds impressive, but doesn't require the amount of work as the next level up.

Alas, and thankfully not due to my presence, other officials also left and I suddenly found myself in the top spot where I quickly learned the outgoing member was correct. It's more fun playing the second fiddle than dealing with the pressure of leading the entire orchestra.

That holds true in other aspects of life, whether that's elected politics (the Vice President of the U.S. certainly has it easier than POTUS) or in the world of entertainment. Think of those in bands who tried solo careers and couldn't deal with the pressure, or actors who play supporting characters in movies or TV shows who suddenly got their own and realized it's easier to be successful as the scene stealer or best friend than the lead and having to carry the show.

Such would seem to be the case with "Minions," the prequel meets origins story of the funny little yellow henchmen from the "Despicable Me" film franchise. While Steve Carell's master villain Gru had the story revolve around him, the little minions were stealing scenes out from under their master, much like Mini Me did to Dr. Evil in the "Austin Powers" flicks.

Now they have to carry an entire film on their own, and while there are creative, imaginative, witty and funny moments throughout, the overall effort isn't as entertaining as the series from which the characters have been spun off. And much of that stems from the standard problem in many films of this ilk, namely once the main plot kicks in, the fun start to slow down and the characters and story ending up losing substantial amounts of their earlier pizzazz.

Things start off promisingly enough when we get a brief, guided history through all things minion related. We learn, through the help of a trusty narrator, that long before they worked for Gru, the title characters helped any number of bad or villainous characters through the ages, ranging from a T-Rex to Napoleon and Dracula.

All ended up meeting unexpected and unintentional demises due to minion-created mishaps and such, thus necessitating the need for them to find a new master. To do that again, three hardy souls (all voiced by co-director Pierre Coffin) end up in 1960s era New York, followed by a trip to a villain convention in Orlando. There, they spot and instantly want to work for the world's first female super villain (voiced by Sandra Bullock) and her more laidback, hipster husband (voiced by Jon Hamm but sounding and looking more like David Duchovny was doing the bit).

The problem is that Scarlett Overkill isn't a particularly interesting villain (she's acting out a childhood obsession with ruling Britain), and thus her interaction with the minions doesn't amount to much. Thankfully, writer Brian Lynch has infused the script with lots of smaller, humorous details and jokes (both broad for general audiences and minutely focused for the few who will get some of that humor) that Coffin and co-director Kyle Balda bring to the screen.

Those bits certainly help keep one engaged enough to sit through the 90-some minute flick. And the minions themselves are as cute and entertaining as before (especially with their unique language), but this is definitely a case of the "trees" being more interesting than the "forest" in which they appear. Enjoyable enough as a diversion but proving that without a strong enough core story it's hard for former supporting characters to carry a pic on their own, "Minions" rates as a 5.5 out of 10.




Reviewed July 7, 2015 / Posted July 10, 2015


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