Cute but neither funny nor thoughtful
(Warning: This review may contain spoilers.)
This is what all Despicable Me fans have been waiting for -- a standalone spin-off of the adorable little yellow, innocent but naughty buggers. The Minions the main characters here and you would see so much of them that you'd probably be sick of them before you even finish the film. Children would leave the cinema wanting more of their toys and adults may feel dissatisfied with its humour.
Co-directed by the creator and the voice of the Minions himself -- Pierre Coffin, the film is a prequel of the Despicable Me films (2010, 2013) with a backstory of the titular creatures. During the prologue, it is revealed that the Minions have existed ever since the dinosaur period and without much explanation given, serving a villainous boss is made to be their only purpose of life. They have served and accidentally killed everyone of their previous bosses, namely T-Rex, caveman, Count Dracula, Napoleon army and perhaps more but sadly, Hitler is not featured. I guess this was where they draw the line for the humour, and decided to poke fun of England and their Queen instead.
After failing to serve in the Napoleon war, the Minions seek refuge in a cave in the middle of nowhere out in the snow. They built homes and entertainment routines for themselves, and somehow, a telephone line as well. Of course, it is expected that nothing would make sense in an animated comedy like this but it makes it less relatably funny when it also doesn't tally up with its own storyline. It's no surprise when the script written by Brian Lynch who did films like Hop (2011) and Puss in Boots (2011), which was the standalone spin-off of the supporting character of the Shrek franchise.
Bored out of their minds and at risk of extinction for not having a boss for a long period time, three of the Minions decide leave the cave and go on a faraway journey to find all their "buddies" a new villain to serve. Each of these three characters have their own unique but cliched personalities and traits. Kevin - the leader who's the smarter one among the three, Bob - the youngest, smallest and most innocent one, and Stuart - the musician who always want to lead the way but fails in everything he does.
The trio travel to Orlando to attend the secret Villain-Con, a convention of villains, where they find their new boss, Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), the greatest villain of that era. The audience are to just assume that Scarlet is real hardcore baddie without actually witnessing any of her crimes. Scarlet takes Kevin, Bob and Stuart to England where she assigns them to steal the crown of Queen Elizabeth. The film's 70s English setting features a number of noticeable pop culture and historical references, but none of these moments are that funny. Perhaps the satires are weak and worn. The music choice is commendable though.
The humour are largely slapstick, similar to the likes of the Three Stooges and The Pink Panther, with the characters stumbling into chaos in whatever right they think they're doing and always end up winning somehow. The film is thoroughly energetic, packed with action in almost every scene, but it lacks genuine comedic creativity. Most gags are too juvenile while some are just oddly too adult, like how Stuart has a thing for fire hydrants and bathes with two of them in the hot tub. Although the film's unpredictability should be appreciated, it's just neither hilarious, new nor thoughtful. The basic scenario is very familiar and it doesn't have sufficient jokes that work for all ages.
Unlike Despicable Me, there's also no character development or depth at all and hence the total absence of emotional engagement, drama and moral value as well. It largely relies on the cuteness of the Minions to entertain more than its humour. Where is the heart? Yes, they're very cute, but being cute is not the same as being funny, and this is a movie, not a toy advertisement. Furthermore, the ending doesn't even try very hard to justify why the Minions choose to be loyal to Gru, their future boss and protagonist in the Despicable Me films.
The performances of the star-studded voice cast do show a lot of potential but unfortunately, their roles have very little screen time and are overshadowed by the titular creatures. No doubt, it's fun to spot out what words the Minions' are using in their gibberish language, which includes a mix of the names of foods and foreign languages, including Malay (watch out for Bob saying "terima kasih"), but nothing they say or do in this film provide a deeper impact or meaning. Ultimately, Minions only prove that these yellow "banana" creatures are more effective and surprising when they are featured in smaller doses as supporting characters, like in Despicable Me or its short films. Even its 4-minute short titled Puppy (2013) has more heart than the entirety of this 90-minute kiddish feature.
Malaysia censorship: It's totally clean for kids.
To watch in 3D? Sorry, didn't watch it in 3D. It does look like it could be fun if everything's popping out of the screen but it seems that it wasn't filmed in the format and may be only converted to 3D in post-production.
Second opinion: Even my girlfriend felt that the film isn't that good. She agrees that it's cute but The Penguins of Madagascar was more entertaining.
Verdict: Most of the funniest moments are already shown in trailers and promotional footages.
Rating: 1.5 / 5
Running Time: 91 minutes
Directors: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda
Screenwriter: Brian Lynch
Cast: Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan, Geoffrey Rush
Malaysia Release Date: 18 June 2015
Local Distributor: UIP Malaysia
Production: Illumination Entertainment
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