There are two crucial things to know about the Minions movie: The minions are still as awesome as ever, and the rigid plot struggles to accommodate their antics.
Let’s make no mistake, if you want a feel-good family film that you can actually get some laughs out of with no expectations of emotionally charged storytelling in the fashion of the golden Pixar Standard, then book those tickets and don’t look back. This film passes the “would my minion-crazy son or daughter love this film?” test with flying colours.
The minions are as loveable and expressive as ever. The problem comes not from the yellow critters, who take on the role of lead protagonists for the first time. The main offenders are the overbearing presence of a one-dimensional supervillain and a narrative which is anchored in traditional storytelling devices and a lagging mid-section.
But don’t be put off by such gripes – there is still a whole lot to like in Minions. Watching the minions burn through a deluge of evil masters in the opening sequence despite their own best intentions is a parade of classic slapstick comedy. Their obsession with bananas is as manic as ever and their increasing depression whilst living a leader-less lifestyle just works on every level.
The Minions, along with their trademark gobbledygook, take London by storm.
Their odd brand of faux-Italian babble is also more prominent given their leading role, but at their best, they are utterly nonsensical and driven by desires unrecognisable to a typical movie protagonist (but perhaps more akin to that of a young child, something to which we can all attune). It’s a shame then that they are put into the role of typical movie protagonists. It doesn’t put a stop to the laughs, rather just makes the context surrounding the comedy feel somewhat forced, which may put off older viewers a bit around the midpoint of the second act.
The silver lining beyond the minions themselves is the setting, with the film predominantly taking place in a gorgeously-realised, quasi-realistic London in the 1960s at the height of beat culture. The cultural memes are amusing for grownups and the city itself pops out of the screen.
Landmarks like Trafalgar Square and Big Ben are all rendered as if the film’s artists really spent time in those locations. Having Sandra Bullock’s supervillain, Scarlet Overkill, house her evil fortress atop our very own Primrose Hill was a stroke of quiet genius which American viewers just wouldn’t appreciate. New York and Florida do get similar visual treatment and progress the story early on, but overall this is a refreshingly British affair.
But of course, the minions transcend any particular cultural style and this is why they are able to meld into any environment with ease, whether it be the perils of the dinosaur age or the interior of an upscale restaurant. Their charm hasn’t diminished, only the package they’ve been wrapped up isn’t necessarily the kind of story they would best bring to life.
Despicable Me and its sequel are modern day classics with universal, timeless appeal. Minions should reach and entertain fans of the previous films with no problem, but probably won’t step out of their shadows once the dust of the summer rush has settled.
Minions is out now in UK cinemas.