Posted by Joel Copling on July 9, 2015

The second movie in the span of a year to position the comic relief from a pre-existing animated series as protagonists in their own spin-off (this one a prequel, too), "Minions" proves far less than half the effort put into 2014's surprising "Penguins of Madagascar" (Of course, the two aren't really worth comparing beyond the superficial fact that they likely spawned from the same place of inspiration, but it goes without saying nonetheless). This is an unexpectedly dreadful, weirdly mean-spirited outing that vacuously hides behind its own simplicity in an effort to pander to five-year-old children who like to watch yellow, pill-shaped creatures babbling incessantly in a random mixture of gibberish, pidgin Spanish, and the occasional English word.

Don't get me wrong: The gimmick was amusing in 2010's "Despicable Me" and its 2013 sequel, but that was because they were kept on the sidelines for much of both films' length. Here, they are front-and-center, which is exactly the opposite of where they should be. A mildly amusing prologue, narrated by Geoffrey Rush for some reason, establishes the little beings from their single-cell beginnings to the extent of their evolution of being no more than two feet in height as seeking out the most dominant figure in their midst. This has led to their latching onto the dinosaur before inadvertently causing its possible extinction, to their servitude under the pharoah of Egypt before wiping him and his consituencies out in a single blow, to more casual genocide that musters up only bemused expressions from the little guys.

The joke that they are basically soulless monsters would be an ok one if we were given any inkling that they were compelling characters to follow, but then there is the lack of ability to distinguish between even the three "protagonists" we follow. To be fair, Kevin, Bob, and Stuart (all voiced by Pierre Coffin, who also co-directed with Kyle Balda and voiced all the other Minions, too) are no more distinguishable than any of the others before going off on a mission to find a new boss, and the journey they go on is really no more distinguishable than any of the other treks, except now we're watching it via a traditional narrative structure, rather than the montages to which we are treated before this.

There is the occasionally inspired bit of lunacy (The trio of Minions first comes across a family whose real purpose is to rob banks), but mostly this is a stodgy affair involving supervillain Scarlet Overkill's (voice of Sandra Bullock for some reason) plot to steal the Queen of England's (voice of Jennifer Saunders) crown. That's it. There's nothing more. The third act devolves into Scarlet's perceived betrayal by the Minions (which is actually through the film's only other clever gag, involving a certain English myth) and attempt to kill them for it. "Minions" is only fractionally as anarchic as its titular, mumbling heroes, and it's a shame that there isn't a lick of creativity or genuine amusement to be had from such characters.

Film Information

Sandra Bullock (Scarlet Overkill), Jon Hamm (Herb Overkill), Michael Keaton (Walter Nelson), Allison Janney (Madge Nelson), Steve Coogan (Professor Flux/Tower Guard), Jennifer Saunders (The Queen), Geoffrey Rush (Narrator), Steve Carell (Young Gru), Pierre Coffin (The Minions), Katy Mixon (Tina), Michael Beattie (Walter Jr./VNC Announcer), Hiroyuki Sanada (Sumo Villain), Dave Rosenbaum (Fabrice).

Directed by Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin and written by Brian Lynch.

Rated PG (action, rude humor).

91 minutes.

Released on July 10, 2015.