With Minions, The Despicable Me Bit Players Prove Charming Enough To Carry A Film On Their Own.

Minions.
Director: Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin.
Writer: Brian Lynch.
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Geoffrey Rush and Pierre Coffin.
Opens: Wide.

Making a sequel to an animated movie can be a risky proposition. It's an even bigger risk to make an animated prequel. Sure, Illumination Entertainment struck gold with Despicable Me and its sequel, but the real stars of both of those films were the Minions. As for those little yellow guys? Well, let's just say Minions are everywhere. You almost can't go to any kid's section in a store without seeing Minion shirts or toys. But as cute as they are, can they carry a whole film by themselves?

The answer, which was very surprising to me, is yes, they can.

Minions starts at the beginning of time, literally, with little prehistoric Minions serving various bad guys. The Minions' mission, you might recall, is to find the baddest bad guy alive and help them with their evil schemes. Eventually, they are bad guy-less, so defacto leader, Kevin, suggests that he go out and find someone to serve. Along with him, laidback, guitar playing Stuart and the over-eager and child-like Bob join the crusade. They make their way to Orlando to Villain Con (which the film needed to spend more time at) in hopes of serving the baddest villain alive, Scarlet Overkill (Bullock).

It's 1968, and Scarlet has made her way through the ranks of villainy. But now she wants the Queen of England's Crown Jewels, and the Minions first task is to get those for her. Hijinks ensue, of course, and their plan to serve Scarlet seems to be falling apart.

The film really shouldn't work. In the Despicable Me films, the Minions worked because they weren't there that much. It was the perfect seasoning in an entertaining movie. But when you have a movie that's nothing but seasoning, it would be easy for things to get old, and fast. But rather than quickly wearing out their welcome, the film manages to make the Minions seem strangely charming — especially Bob. If Bob doesn't pull at your heartstrings, then you might want to check if you even have one.

Minions doesn't break any new ground in storytelling. It's fairly straightforward, with not that much substance. Some themes of friendship are explored a bit between Kevin, Stuart and Bob, but even then, the film very much relies on how cute and funny the Minions are. Thankfully, they pull off that charm, otherwise this film would have felt like a straight-to-DVD release.

The animation itself is quite fantastic. Having seen this in 3D, it was actually one of the few films I've seen that benefited from the effect. Here, the 3D made the animation look crisper and more realistic. There were times where all the surroundings, and even the Minions themselves, looked real and felt like they had weight.

Little kids and adult kids who have an affinity towards the Minions already, will love this film. For the adults who feel like this movie feels too kiddy, have no fear. Setting the film in 1968 was one of the smartest choices the filmmakers could have made. There are some fun cultural references, and this will be one of the best soundtracks from a kids film to date, with music from The Who, The Rolling Stones and even a song from the musical Hair. Of course, all of these are sung in the Minions' made up language, so bear that mind when your kids play these songs on repeat for the next few months.

Though it's not the smartest animated film to come out this year, Minions does succeed in being a very charming and entertaining film. I was very skeptical going in, but the film won me over.

Also, you'll never hear or say the word “banana” the same way again. So there's that.

Grade: B.

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