2015-07-11

Minions – We All Need a Master

by Yo Snyder

Sidekicks can add color, humor and heart to the story of any hero (or villain, as the case may be). However, they’re rarely strong enough characters to carry a story all on their own; hence the reason they’re sidekicks in the first place. The minions of the Despicable Me movies are a perfect example of this. Yes they’re funny and charming and they seem to steal every scene they’re in, but they were there to back-up Gru and play a role in his story. When it comes to giving them a story of their own, or at least a story large enough to fill up an entire movie, there are several obstacles to overcome in order to do that, not the least of which is the fact that minions were designed to be sidekicks and nothing more. They may be funny and popular, but that doesn’t mean they can succeed in a movie of their own because they were never meant to be the stars.

This isn’t to say that Minions isn’t an entertaining movie. It’s as funny as it is forgettable and for the most part an enjoyable time to spend with the family. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to feel like the minions really should stick to the short film format rather than trying to go feature length. The concept of the minions looking for the perfect boss to serve is all kinds of entertaining and amusing, and had this been an extended short or even a thirty-minute special, it would have been hilarious and wildly entertaining. However, this story needed to fill up just over ninety minutes, but there isn’t enough substance here nor are the minions strong enough characters to go it alone for that long. The first twenty minutes of the film is fun and hilarious, but then the story drags on with only a few really stand-out moments. There’s no denying the appeal of the minions; their antics are entertaining, but are best when used in a supporting role.

It’s funny as the film seems to realize this about half-way through and decides to toss in a new boss for them to serve, but it’s here the film struggles with a consistent tone. The minions are supposed to be the star this time around, but the obviously work better as sidekicks, so the movie introduces Scarlett Overkill as someone for them to be a sidekick to, but she can’t be the start because this is the minions movie so somehow she has to play second fiddle to minions who are supposed to be her sidekicks…and can you see the issue here? It’s shame because Sandra Bullock does a fine job with Scarlett, it’s just that Scarlett isn’t as compelling of a character as Gru, which makes sense considering she really isn’t the star, but ends up feeling like a waste of Bullock’s talent since she isn’t given a chance to create a truly memorable character the way Steve Carrell did with Gru. However, if she had, then this spin-off would have been more about a new super-villain, Scarlett Overkill, rather than the minions, which wouldn’t work because the movie is supposed to be about the minions. Again, I think you can see the problem with trying to promote sidekicks to the starring role (an issue that Cars 2 had similar struggles with).

It’s ironic, really, that the movie states at the very beginning that minions need a master to serve, and without that they lose any sense of purpose (the irony being that the movie explicitly states that minions need a boss in a movie that wants the minions to be their own star). It’s also interesting that the notion of needing a master is played to comic effect with the minions when, in fact, their need actually reflects a deeply seated need of our own. Namely, the need to serve something greater than ourselves; the need for a Master. Oh, I know in our fiercely independent culture we cringe at the mere mention of “serving” anyone other than ourselves, but the film makes an interesting point that without a Master to serve, life can lose its purpose. And despite our insistence of independence, the fact is, one way or another we already serve a master, the question is really whether or not we’re serving the right Master; i.e. one who can provide Life and Purpose through our service, as opposed to disappointment, disillusionment and ultimately destruction.

I still find the minion very entertaining characters, much like the rabbids of Raving Rabbids are a lot of fun. They’re wacky and crazy and yet also endearing and charming. Still, that doesn’t really mean they can carry a whole movie. I love them when they’re supporting and playing off of Gru and his adventures, and they’re great when they star in their own little short features, but put them in a full-length film, it really does turn into too much of a good thing.

Score: 4 of 7 –
There’s definitely a bit more potty humor in this movie than the previous two Despicable Me’s, but it’s all done in innocent fun and not used as any sort of gross-out gag. The shenanigans of the minions will undoubtedly be good fun for the younger ones, but for older kids (such as myself), while they may still have a grin on their face, they’ll also occasionally be checking their watches.