We have been under some pressure from the smallest member of the family to go and see Minions, since they started running adverts non-stop on pretty much every channel we watch at the moment. I think Robert sees them as somewhat of a kindred spirit, or perhaps a CGI Spirit Guide, as they're little, and bouncy and enthusiastic, and so a trip to the cinema started to feel inevitable. And besides, I've seen my single ration of 15+ rated movies this year, right? For anyone not aware, the Minions are the breakout characters from the two Despicable Me films, which are best described as "fun, but nothing outstanding". In those films, our evil-ish villian has an army of small, yellow gibberish-spouting helpers that work on his evil-ish plans for World Domination, and here they get their own film, a prequel of sorts, to test how tolerable they are in larger numbers.
The story opens at the dawn of time, as we see the Minions move through history in search of the greatest evil doer to call Master. They're pretty useless, to be honest, and manage to kill or otherwise derail most of them with a series of slapstick antics, but it's a fun, inventive sequence that ends with them stranded in Russia after messing up Napoleons march on Moscow. Which incidently avoids them having to comedically help any of the 20th Centuries real villians, which is helpful for a U rated movie. Finally, one of the Minions decides that they should set off from their society - now falling to ennui due to lack of villiany - and seek out a new boss, accompanied by a pair of helpers.
The first smart move the film makes is setting it in 1968. For a start it has a fantastic period soundtrack, that never failed to make me smile. It also favours a visual design for characters and locations that lets the film sit alongside things like The Incredibles in terms of the sheer inventiveness up on the screen. A special shout-out to Lava-Lamp guns that fire real Lava, but villian Scarlett Overkill's Rocket-Dresses are also pretty amazing. The plot, such as it is, involves the Minions working for, then trying to be killed by, Scarlett, although really its just an excuse to roll from set-piece to set-piece without too much explanation.
Scarlett is a great creation through, along with her Swinging London Inventor Husband, Herb. I've already mentioned the design, but the vocal performances from Sandra Bullock and John Hamm are excellent, and the dynamic of a husband-wife villian team feels pretty fresh (as does the family of minor villians you meet earlier in the film). Misunderstanding and error fuels most of the plot, too, leaving Scarlett in an interesting place as becoming an adversary without having to go to the overused "Haha! This was my Plan All Along" route.
Robert loved Minions, and currently holds the opinion that it's the best film ever made. I wouldn't go that far, to be honest, but it is a surprising amount of fun. The Minions themselves manage to stay funny all the way through, and the need to communicate to the audience visually is exploited to the hilt. It's never dull, and never annoying, and manages to be fun for adults without too much recourse to "adult only" gags. It is disjointed, and lacks much in the way of any sort of narrative through-line, and lacks the thematic depth that strengthens say, Paddington, or Big Hero 6. But it kept the four of us solidly entertained, and one of us extremely entertained, so thats one job the little yellow buggers managed to get exactly right.