When popular sidekicks earn a stand-alone movie, they can't always stand by themselves. Compare the dismal quality of the “Wolverine” movies to its “X-Men” franchise or the “Cars” spin-off “Planes” to its original story. Could a “Despicable Me” spin-off solely focusing on the minions -- those cute, but passively evil henchmen -- hold the charm of the previous two movies? Well, yes and no.
“Minions” is the story of the tribe’s origin, covering everything from how the yellow capsule-shaped creatures evolved and walked on land to serve their first villain, to how our three prominent heroes found the iconic overalls. The leader, Kevin, recruits music lover Stuart and the childlike Bob (all voiced by co-director Pierre Coffin) to help save the minion tribe from wasting away because they’re not serving an evil overlord.
At the dreaded Villain Con (placed in the time-appropriate Florida swampland of Orlando a decade before the Magic Kingdom opened its gates), the minion trio finds Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and decides to serve her whim to steal the Queen of England’s crown. But before they can bring their tribe to the U.K., their plan goes terribly awry.
— #Minions (@Minions) July 3, 2015
“Minions” is a cute, hyperkinetic hodgepodge of '60s jokes, a rocking soundtrack and visual puns. It’s just cute and clever enough to keep the wee ones entertained and the parents nodding along to an “Abbey Road” or The Who reference. “Minions” spoofs the Anglophile obsession of all things royal family, but it's just as content to make tea time and stubborn politeness jokes. The fun of watching Scarlet and her husband, Herb (Jon Hamm), are all in their actors’ free-for-all vocal performances. The supporting talents of Allison Janney, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan and Jennifer Saunders add to the already wacky playfulness of the movie.
But something seemed amiss without the presence of the minions’ frustrated villain, Gru (Steve Carrell). The fiend has a few cameos, sure, but the absence of his dynamic with his adopted daughters meant the only emotional tug of the movie came from the minions themselves. Their well-being never felt at stake since audiences know how easily they can escape such consequences. It’s odd to find a movie so blissfully uncomplicated and yet sustain itself on lighthearted jokes about falling in love with fire hydrants.
Since “Minions” is as much a sequel (building from the “Despicable Me” fan base) as it is a spin-off, hopes are high that the little guys will find big box office rewards. The Guardian estimates “Minions” may even surpass this summer’s previous animated hit, Pixar’s “Inside Out,” with a cool $100 million opening weekend. Whether that’s enough to defeat the “Jurassic World” juggernaut is a different story.
This isn't the last audiences will see of the minions. A new “Despicable Me” sequel is scheduled to hit theaters in 2017.
“Minions” opens in theaters nationwide on Friday.