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Friday, 5 August 2016

Minions (2015)

I must be going soft in the head. After giving a thumbs-up review to "Scouts Guide..." (below), I now find myself enchanted by the little yellow minions movie -- much to my own amazement. A prequel to the two "Despicable Me" movies, we learn from Geoffrey Rush's narrator that the creatures, from prehistoric times, have strived to serve the most evil master they can find. I understand that this was all divulged in the film's trailer, which fortunately I have not seen, so it was amusing to see them chumming up to a fearsome dinosaur, an angry caveman, and even Count Dracula, only for them to be instrumental in killing off each new master. After a series of historical mishaps, the minions isolated themselves in a frozen waste with only the odd yeti as a potential boss.

When their leader Kevin, together with sidekicks Stuart and Bob, decides to venture forth into the 20th century in the search for a truly evil monster to serve, we join them on their frantic quest. Finally they arrive in New York, where they are greeted by a huge billboard promoting Richard Nixon: 'A man you can trust!'  They learn of a hush-hush convention in Orlando of the most wicked criminals in the world and hitch a ride with the all-American, all-larcenous Nelson family. In Orlando they are taken up by the infamous Scarlet Overkill, who whisks they off to England, tasking them to steal the Queen's crown -- seems that Scarlet has coveted this from girlhood -- and her new servants are delighted to do her bidding. Naturally complications ensue with Bob inadvertently being crowned King after idly plucking a sword from a stone; television news describes the new monarch as a jaundiced yellow child. He then abdicates in favour of Scarlet putting the crown within her grasp and she can now safely consign her minions to the torture chamber in the cellars. Fortunately they escape and are able to stop her coronation; however she is not so easily thwarted and a massive battle ensues, ending with the arrival of Despicable's Gru, the ultimate baddie for them to serve. And that's where we came in...

Now I found the first two movies reasonably droll without exactly being enraptured by them and I did not expect this film to be as entertaining as it is. Perhaps the fact that we get to know three of the little creatures (rather than the hundreds that normally swarm about) helps one to get emotionally involved in their fate and to root for their success. In addition, their unique language -- a mixture of English, Spanish, Yiddish, and Rubbish --creates an amusing gibberish which is just about understandable. I particularly loved the fact that little Bob acquires a pet rat in the sewers whom he addresses affectionately as 'putsi'. I also liked the recognizable animation of the London scene and Jennifer Saunders' voicing of the young Queen Elizabeth who uses her enforced break from ruling for a jolly knees-up with her erstwhile subjects.

However I must admit my continued puzzlement at the perceived necessity of using A-list actors to voice the main characters. I just don't see why having Sandra Bullock voicing Scarlet or Jon Hamm as her consort Herb or Michael Keaton and Allison Janney credited as Mr and Mrs Nelson helps the marketability of the flick. The movie is intended for children with some visual and verbal sops for the adults, and I very much doubt that the kids really care who's talking -- and none of the above achieve anything particularly memorable here. The joy is purely in the reasonably well-rounded animated characters themselves and not in their unrecognizable voices. The best vocal performance apart from Saunders is given by co-director Pierre Coffin who voiced all (repeat all) of the minions in the two earlier films and all of them here as well. I understand that he will now be directing "Despicable Me 3" soon to hit your multiplex. If he carries on doing such an amusing job, I shall be sure to see it, or as Kevin would exclaim 'Kumbaya!

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As a footnote to "Scouts Guide...", a number of the reviewers on IMDb comment that the movie is nowhere near as funny as "Cooties" (2014). Since I had not heard of this movie I got hold of a copy....and it is terrible! Watching a bunch of uncharismatic teachers murder their virus-infected kiddies is not exactly my idea of fun.
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