MINION MANIA

THE TRUE STARS OF THE DESPICABLE ME FRANCHISE FINALLY GET THEIR OWN LONG AWAITED MOVIE, AND IT LIVES UP TO THE ANTICIPATION

Director: Kyle Baldin and Pierre Coffin

Starring: Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Geoffrey Rush, Jennifer Saunders and Steve Carell

Studio: Universal/Illumination

Rated: G

Running Time: I Hr, 31 Min

When Despicable Me conquered theatres in 2010 and the sequel busted the box office 3 years later, it was universally agreed that while both movies had a few other things going for them, the true stars were Gru’s army of diminutive yellow minions, who carried out his bidding, assembled and maintained his array of weapons and super villain gadgets and assisted him on his heists and adventures. It was only natural then that the little yellow super stars deserved a movie where they got top billing (in fact, Universal announced the Minions stand alone movie shortly after the successful debut of Despicable Me 2 in the summer of 2013). Minions has been one of the most anticipated movies this summer, and as it turns out, for good reason.

The minions story goes back to the dawn of time, when they crawled out of the ocean around the same time mankind’s evolutionary ancestors did, and right away their search began for the Big Boss, the Alpha Villain they could serve faithfully. Unfortunately for both them and their adopted employer, the minions enthusiasm usually lead to a bad end for whoever they’re calling boss at the time, and one such disastrous incident forces them to seek refuge in one of Earth’s polar wastelands. There they build a society and live out their master less lives, but the absence of a Big Boss begins to weigh on them and one by one they lose focus and drift into a deep, melancholy depression. Until one day, an enterprising minion by the name of Kevin decides that he’ll act out his daydreams of being a hero and will venture out into the world to find a new boss for the minions to serve, bringing purpose back to their lives. Joined by the overzealous Stuart and he reluctant, mostly uninterested Bob, Stuart sets out on an adventure that reveals just how the minions came to be in the service of the super villain Gru. Although before they begin helping Gru rob banks, the banana loving minions find themselves in the temporary employ of the world’s greatest super villain, the seductive yet merciless Scarlet Overkill (voiced perfectly by Sandra Bullock).

If you loved the zany antics and spontaneous slap stick of the of the first two movies, you’ll love Minions. Not a scene goes by without Kevin, Bob and Stuart getting themselves into some sort of manic stupidity and then trying to get out of it with even more nonsense. And their limited but hilarious vocabulary serve as exclamation marks for the physical comedy. It’s like watching shorter, squeakier versions of the Three Stooges in a world with even less physics. The plot serves only to move from one sight gag to the next, which is the whole point. Kids and adults alike will find Minions hilarious, sometimes for the identical reasons and sometimes for totally separate ones. Bullock does a fine job voicing Scarlet Overkill, lending the villain plenty of tender, maternal sweetness when she’s being manipulative or taunting, and injecting plenty of cartoon venom when Overkill becomes borderline homicidal. Jon Hamm, who voices Overkill’s inventor husband Herb, is convincing as a stereotypical hippie paramour who seems to just tag along for the fun and if Pierre Coffin, who has voiced the minions since they were first unleashed onto pop culture (and is a co-director here) doesn’t get any love this Oscar season, it will be a cinematic crime. Minions succeeds at capturing a very 60’s flavour for the film, and deliciously mines British culture, from Beatle mania to London coppers to the Monarchy itself for plenty of its laughs (especially the scene where Queen Elizabeth goes all Monday Night Raw on one of our stars, giving him a lecture on gentlemanly behaviour while she’s kicking his little yellow ass). But the best thing about Minions is that even though the little yellow guys are the movie’s unquestioned stars, it leaves you wanting more (Universal has one more Despicable Me up their sleeves, scheduled for a 2017 release, before likely putting the franchise to bed).

Industry insiders will be watching to see if Minions can match or best the success of Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out (Universal and Disney have had a an intriguing tug of war at the box office all year long, with Universal looking like it’s got the upper hand for the time being, while Disney has one mother of a bullet left in it’s chamber that goes by the name of Star Wars). Minions opening weekend is blowing everything else out of the water with a near record debut (estimated second highest animated opening in history), proving the little yellow tykes have tonnes of marketing appeal. Now the question is how they’ll fare against competition like Ant-Man and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation over the next few weeks. But box office economics aside, this is definitely one you want to take the kids to see, even if it only gives you an excuse to see it yourself.

Shayne Kempton

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GRU AND THE GIRLS RETURN IN DESPICABLE ME 2, AND ITS JUST AS MUCH FUN AS THE FIRST.  AND LIKE THE FIRST, THE MINIONS SERVE UP THE BIGGEST LAUGHS

My Minions - Despicable Me 2

My Minions – Despicable Me 2 (Photo credit: Jeff Pioquinto, SJ)

Director:  Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud

Starring:  Steve Carrell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan

Studio:  Universal Pictures

Length:  1 Hr 38 Min

Rated:  Family

Gru and the girls are back, along with Dr. Nefario and Gru’s legion of little yellow minions.  This time around, Gru finds himself on the side of the angels, recruited to help thwart the kind of diabolical plot he himself once unleashed upon an unsuspecting world.  Along the way he finds himself throwing birthday parties, dodging blind dates and killer sharks (again), inventing a line of original jellies and butting heads with boys for the first time.  But despite all the antics Dru finds himself getting into (and out of), the real stars of Despicable Me 2 are his minions, who see more screen time in the sequel than in the original.  And they don’t disappoint.

Settling into domestic life while raising his three adopted girls, Gru (brilliantly voiced by Steve Carrell) becomes the prototypical devoted father, even if he still has a chip the size of Mount Everest on his shoulder.  Margo is growing into a teenager, complete with all the headaches that includes (she’s just reached the age where boys become fascinating-much to Dru’s chagrin), Edith is the tomboy of the group, determined to be a ninja when she grows up and the youngest, Agnes, has added princesses to a list of obsessions that still includes unicorns.  Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) is still hanging around, now puttering away in the basement lab, helping Dru invent a whole new line of jelly products.  But Dru and the family soon find their lives disrupted when the Anti-Villain League, a law enforcement agency devoted strictly to opposing super villains, recruits Gru to help them track down and stop a mysterious new villain whose stolen a top-secret formula that can mutate the most harmless creature into a man-eating monster.  Reluctantly paired with the lethal yet spectacularly awkward agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), Dru sets out to solve this mystery and soon suspects that a villain from his past (Benjamin Bratt) may be involved.  Complicating things further, the girls decide to become matchmakers and try to get Dru married off, a job already being occupied by an annoying neighbor determined to set Dru up.  And to add one extra little thorn in his side, Margo falls head over heels for Antonio, a virtual James Dead clone who also happens to be the son of Gru’s number one suspect.  Everyone’s favorite former villain soon finds that the more he tries to keep his eldest daughter away from her newfound rebel without a cause, the deeper she falls for him.

Despicable Me 2 is a laugh riot that’s just as good as the first.  There’s still a pretty high cute factor (lead once again by Agnes) and watching Dru struggle as the father of an adolescent love struck girl as well as with everyone’s clumsy attempts to set him up gives the film plenty of fresh comedic options.  And as always, the minions are on hand to steal about a thousand scenes (hopefully the home release includes some more original mini-movies devoted just to them and there’s already a spinoff movie in the works featuring Sandra Bullock).  At the risk of playing spoiler, there’s a hilarious scene where the minions do a priceless personation of a famous boy band from the nineties performing one of their greatest hits.  The kids were laughing t the yellow guys while the adults were roaring at the impersonation of a band that just won’t die. With all due respect to films like the Croodes, Monsters University and Epic, Despicable Me 2 is the best animated film of the year so far, and it’s going to be tough for any other release to knock it out of that spot, based mostly on its wider appeal.  Because while you shouldn’t be surprised to see the kids to fall out of their seats laughing, you should expect plenty of grown ups to join them.

Shayne Kempton

DESPICABLE FUN