I had always assumed that the Minions were creations of Doctor Nefario, Gru’s staff mad scientist, but the Minions movie tells us that they evolved from a primitive life form that hit on a form of symbiosis no unlike that practiced by pilot fish or “crocodile birds”: that of following, and attempting to assist an apex predator. This developed, evidently, into a deep psychological need, so that, by Jurassic times, the Minions were attempting to follow and worship tyrannosaurs,despite themselves having developed human-ish levels of intelligence. (This evolutionary history begs the question as to whether or not Minions are mammalian. Some of the scenes in the movie make it questionable if they are even vertebrates--.) It’s also questionable whether or not “symbiosis” is the proper word for a relationship that so often destroys the organism they are attached to, although it’s also a novel form of parasitism--. By the time humans have taken over the world, the Minions tropism for the most predatory behavior draws them to the most villainous, or "evil" humans.
Having ticked off Napoleon, the Minion tribe is chased into the polar wastes and languishes in exile until the 1960’s, when the visionary Kevin, accompanied by Stuart and Bob (all voiced by Pierre Coffin), sets out on a quest for a new life. After a sequence of adventures, they arrive in Orlando,Florida, for “Villain-Con,” and succeed in obtaining the coveted post of hench-beings to the super-villain “Scarlet Overkill” (Sandra Bullock), who covets the crown and throne of Great Britain.
“Mrs. Overkill” as the British refer to her, is a great creation, a James Bond villain that never was. (Her appearance is heralded with Bond-like trumpet riffs--.) She’s gloriously vain, amazingly flamboyant, and highly deadly. Her loving husband(really!) is mod mad scientist Herb (Jon Hamm), who resembles a caricature of Noel Harrison from “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.”. When she sends the Minions out to fetch her Queen Elizabeth’s crown, the caper goes amazingly off the rails in ways disconcerting to both the villains and the British Empire.
Since the Minions speak chiefly gibberish with a few recognizable words for comic effect, both the makers and reviewers of the movie have tended to compare it with silent film comedy, which isn’t quite the case.
Instead,the movie is a lot more like one of the Three Stooges more elaborate plots:everyone assumes the minions/stooges are idiots; they both succeed and screw up beyond all expectations; and havoc ensues.
The movie is purely silly, which is fine if you go expecting that. Although quite kid-friendly, there’s lots in it for older folks as well,not least the 60’s rock soundtrack, but a lot of in-jokes as well. (When the Minions, fleeing through the sewers, surface at an exit labeled “Abbey Road” we know whom they are going to encounter when they surface--.)
Animation and character design are consistent with the “Despicable Me” films, with settings and backgrounds more elaborate since the plot takes place in real world locations (New York, London) as distinct from the more purely cartoon world of the earlier movies. There are also some very nice cameos by Michael Keaton and Allison Janney as leaders of an American “crime family,” and Jennifer Saunders as a feisty Queen of England.
Recommended if you can enjoy a bout of over the top slapstick with some charming characters.
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