It’s the role of a minion to be a servile follower of a person in charge. That means they are resigned to play the supporting role.
That’s the problem with the new animated comedy “Minions.” The pill-shaped, yellow characters introduced in “Despicable Me” as the subordinates to the villainous Gru have now taken center stage. The charm and humor they brought in tiny doses in the previous films now comes in a massive blast that wears thin quickly.
“Minions” starts with great promise. The long history of the jabbering group is charted from their days as one-cell organisms through their participation in great moments in history. These are entertaining vignettes that last for just a few moments before the action shifts.
The film gets bogged down when the group decides they really need to find an evil boss to lead them. Kevin, Bob and Stuart (all given their mumbling voices by Pierre Coffin) set out to find that leader. Their quest takes them to London in 1968.
They end up in Europe because they believe their new boss should be the wicked Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock). She’s become the world’s leading super villain with some help from her mod husband, Herb Overkill (Jon Hamm).
The original story of finding a leader is then tossed aside to make way for a plot line about how Scarlett wants to steal the queen’s crown as a way of making her feel better about her miserable childhood. Between the heist by the banana-colored trio and Scarlet’s laments about not being appreciated, the film falls into a funk.
There are funny moments when the Minions make odd sounds or fall down. But the movie feels like a mashup of a Three Stooges story with “The Thomas Crown Affair.” That mix just doesn’t work here. The Minions are best when they are following orders and not being heroes. There needed to be more Stooges and less “Affair.”
The majority of the voice casting works. The biggest mistake is having Hamm voice the role of the bad Brit. Hamm has a great sense of comic timing, but his character always sounds like someone trying to do a bad British accent. There are plenty of British actors who could have handled the role much better.
“Minions” also is missing the heart that was such a part of the “Despicable Me” films. Because those films had Gru and his growth as the central theme, the Minions only had to be comical accents. “Minions” lacks that central core, which leaves the story flat.
And the lack of a character like Gru also leaves “Minions” without a solid foundation to keep adults engaged, other than a wonderful soundtrack. The movie “Inside Out” found the right balance of material for younger and older audiences. “Minions” doesn’t have such a mix.
“Minions” has its moments. It’s hard not to laugh at the sight of a Minion in a thong or one falling on its face. It’s a base humor that makes the film fun. But it’s not full of the despicable glee it needed to be as good as the original films.