Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Minions




At this point, you either like the Minions well enough, just don't get it, or are a child teetering on the brink of disturbing obsession.  The yellow, pill-shaped sidekicks are an odd phenomenon: they speak the linguistic equivalent of wind-dings, look basically identical, and seem unified as a species primarily in their love for both bananas and villainy.  They're meant to be little followers who go wherever a more powerful overlord tells them, and in one of the more amusing sequences in Minions  we watch a compact history of misplaced trust and accidental destruction.  Each big bad the minions latch on to seems to meet a terrible end, and it's perhaps in this way that their dedication to evil is quickly cancelled out: if you keep killing the bad guy, you must be some kind of hero, right?



Maybe. Or, well, if you wanted to stretch it you could say that exploration seems to be partially at the heart of the minions' first feature-length vehicle as actual protagonists.  Here we're given a more complete introduction to Stuart, Kevin, and Bob: three unique yet one-note personalities tasked with journeying out of hibernation to find a new leader for their depressed society.  The modern world leads them to super-villain Scarlet Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock), and finds them making an enemy of their would-be beloved leader via a series of accidental successes.  It's a lightweight plot designed to feature the antics of the little yellow creatures in as many 1960s set-pieces as possible, with as overloaded a soundtrack as possible.

In many ways, it's an obvious cash grab designed to further market and interchangeable array of merchandise while finding reasons to get the creatures into as many costumes, vehicles, and awkward interactions as possible. There's a representative minion moment for every segment of the population, and the film will sell them to you in a parade of figurine-ready moments - guitar-shredding Stuart, tiny animal- hugging Bob, Arctic-ready Kevin - collect them all.  While the franchise intentions are clear enough, that doesn't mean Minions isn't charming for what it is.  If we're being truly fair, we could even argue that it's clear the folks behind the franchise put in the work to try and figure out how to build a series of short burst antics into something like a cohesive narrative. They know what draws people to these characters, they know how to milk them for all their worth while still keeping the commercial fresh, cute, and innocuously charming.

A spin-off film like Minions can only really be evaluated on two fronts: its marketability and its success as a pop product.  Though it may accomplish nothing beyond this, it succeeds at being an effervescent, distracting piece of ephemera.  For an empty calorie, it does manage to have a keen sense of its own comedic potential and spends ample time constructing fun spaces and visual jokes that delight the eye and keep the viewer consistently occupied.  While Minions may not be smart, it is clever.  While it may not be substantive, it is funny.  And while it may lack in plot? Well, it is short...

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