Not ones to let a money-spinning merchandising opportunity go to waste, Universal took swift advantage of the Minions’ breakout popularity in Despicable Me, packing so much Minion mayhem into its blunt follow-up that the sequel really should have been called The Minions Movie.
Now the studio has gone the whole hog and given the adorably jaundiced-looking critters a prequel/spinoff of their very own with Minions, a relentlessly hilarious solo-outing that is sure to entertain any child that’s already bored of the summer holidays.
The presence of series director Pierre Coffin may provide some continuity with the main franchise, but Minions sadly lacks the heart-warming depth and devilish wit that led to the original films being compared to the work of Pixar.
Minions is clearly geared towards a much younger audience, and Coffin does an excellent job of delivering enough rampant silliness to entertain the targeted tykes, but its aimless plot and absence of endearing characters makes the end result feel disappointingly hollow.
Taking inspiration from the beginnings of recent animated spin-offs Paddington and Penguins of Madagascar, the film opens with a potted history of the small, yellow creatures who have evolved from single-celled organisms into unintelligible beings who have only one purpose: to serve history’s most despicable masters.
After accidentally destroying all their masters, including a T-Rex, Genghis Khan, Napoleon and Dracula, the Minions find themselves alone in Antarctica needing a new start in life. Naturally, they turn to a Minion named Kevin, and his pals, Stuart and Bob, to find their new leader.
Their long search leads all the way to Orlando, Florida, and the 1968 Villain-Con, where all the world’s supervillains gather to search for new henchman, where they win a job offer from ambitious villainess Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock). And all they have to do is steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.
Having voiced the wacky scene-stealers since their inception, Coffin knows better than anyone that the Minions work best when they’re providing bonkers comic relief. So it’s no surprise that the film is at its most enjoyable when it’s delivering whiplash-quick laughs, staying true to the previous entries’ clever slapstick vibe with a stream of eye-poppingly silly sequences as the Minions try to please their new boss.
Coffin even manages to sneak in a couple of gags for the parents to enjoy, such as a goofy reference to The Beatles’ iconic Abbey Road cover; although, these are quite possibly to infrequent to keep older viewers fully engaged with the plot.
The problems emerge when the film tries to do more than make its audience laugh. Screenwriter Brian Lynch struggles to find a cohesive story for the Minions as they flit between quests to both help and thwart their master with such regularity that the plot ultimately feels like a barely-connected stream of comic vignettes with no over-arching theme.
More importantly, without the warm-hearted focus of Steve Carell’s despicable Gru changing his evil ways out of love for three cute-as-a-button orphans, Minions sorely lacks the tender pathos that viewers have come to expect from the very best animations.
Not that any of this is ruinous, of course. Minions’ sole aim is to provide big laughs to the masses and on that front it is certainly sure-fire hit, successfully transferring its barmy brand of gibberish-fuelled hijinks into a full movie with uneven but undoubtedly hilarious results.
Click here to watch a trailer for Despicable Me