Review: Yellow critters go gaga in 'Minions'

Tom Long
The Detroit News

"Minions" is every bit as cute as it's supposed to be, a happily empty-headed animated frolic that rarely pauses to take a breath.

The film isn't without its quirks though, chief among them being cultural references that will fly right over the heads of its assumedly mostly diminutive audience. A Richard Nixon joke? The Sydney, Australia, skyline? The Beatles crossing Abbey Road? Even if these are included for parents, a la the "Shrek" franchise's pop culture references, they seem a bit up there.

No matter, the silliness is what counts and silliness abounds. We start at evolution's beginning — Christian fundamentalists may want to shield their children's eyes — where the minions, tiny little yellow pill-shaped creatures, realize even at a cellular level that it's wise to follow and serve the strongest, baddest creature around.

Thus does a small horde of minions emerge from the sea, following some slimy creature who has sprouted legs. Soon enough they are serving a T Rex, then a dominant caveman — the minions apparently being immortal — and a dictatorial general.

There's only one problem. Well-intentioned as they may be, the minions have a bad habit of inadvertently killing off the evil masters they serve, whether through bad advice, clumsiness or naiveté. After botching one too many campaigns, they retreat to an underground ice cave where they build a spiffy little minion city and break into spontaneous musical numbers.

Which is OK for a while, but eventually boredom sets in. They need a boss to serve. So an enterprising minion named Kevin — the minions don't speak English, but they seem to have English names — decides to journey back to the world outside and search for an evil leader they can serve. Accompanying him is a rebel of sorts named Stuart, and a sweet little (even by minion standards) dolt named Bob.

The trio end up in New York City — the year is 1968 — where they hear about a villain's convention in then undeveloped Orlando. Hitching a ride there, they meet and win over the top villain of the day, Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock). She takes them to London, where they meet her gadget-obsessed husband, Herb (Jon Hamm) and discover her ultimate goal: She wants to steal the crown of the Queen of England.

Which the minions must do for her. Or else.

One of the great wonders of this movie is how much the minions — all voiced by director Pierre Coffin, who also directed the "Despicable Me" movies they're derived from — talk while making no discernable sense. English, Spanish and French phrases pop up and then get swallowed in unintelligible garble. Certain words — "Kumbaya!" and "King Bob!" — serve key functions, but for the most part it's pure babble. Reading the script (by Brian Lynch) must have been an adventure.

"Minions" doesn't have the layers and insights of Pixar's recent "Inside Out"; in truth it doesn't have any layers and insights at all. It's playing for fun, and that it has plenty of. Kumbaya indeed.



Rated PG for action and rude humor

Running time: 91 minutes