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Review: 'Minions' is a plotless cash grab starring annoying Twinkies

 
Minions takes place before the yellow creatures served Gru in Despicable Me. The sidekicks set out on a journey for a new villain to serve, which means traveling to Villain Con in Orlando.
Minions takes place before the yellow creatures served Gru in Despicable Me. The sidekicks set out on a journey for a new villain to serve, which means traveling to Villain Con in Orlando.
Published July 8, 2015

Minions is despicable, or maybe it's just me.

Money-grab movies are never my thing, coming from filmmakers knowing whatever viewers think when they exit the theater doesn't matter as long as they paid to get in. Movies that have no business being made in the first place, except show business as usual.

Introduced as wacky distractions in 2010's Despicable Me, these babbling yellow suppositories on legs were amusing. They were a hit, especially with small children of approximately the same balancing and linguistic skills. Their role expanded in the sequel, as did the box office take. Why not a whole movie about Minions?

Well, because even if they had shoulders, Minions can't carry a movie. They can sell one — along with fast food, electronics, insurance and Tic Tacs — but these time-release capsules of comedy don't deserve one of their own. Sidekicks seldom do, or else they wouldn't be sidekicks.

Twenty minutes, tops, in a 90 minute movie is all the Minions you need. Not coincidentally, that's just about how long it takes for these goggle-eyed thumbs to begin wearing out their welcome in this one. Comedy and narrative demand more rhythm than simply scamper, jabber, fall but that's what Minions bring to the table.

A more focused plot with better foils would help. After a prelude that would make a fine short subject, three Minions — Kevin, Stuart and Bob, all voiced by co-director Pierre Coffin — embark on a quest to find a villain to serve.

The time is 1968 B.G. (before Gru), with a classic rock soundtrack and counterculture caricatures to prove it. The period setting gives baby boomers something of interest; Abbey Road, Dating Game gags and the like to be explained on the ride home. Grandparents are pandered to with a Singin' in the Rain riff. Something for everyone buying a ticket.

Kevin, Stuart and Bob are headed to Villain Con in Orlando, which in 1968 is a bait shop by a rickety bridge, the entrance to an underground convention center. At Villain Con they connect with Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock, who will learn the benefits of overacting in animation). Scarlet is the world's only female supervillain — although her motivation and weapon tactics aren't feminist — hiring the Minions to steal Queen Elizabeth's crown.

From there, the plot goes nowhere in particular except the possibly contracted 90 minute mark, as evidence someone tried.

There are a few amusements along the way: Jon Hamm's mincing Mod accent as Scarlet's husband Herb, the occasional bits of Minion dialogue that are perceptibly multilingual, and Godzilla spoofs always work. The ending is perfect, ensuring there won't be a Minions sequel, at least.

But why did there need to be the first one? Like the Pizza Planet aliens of Toy Story and the penguins of Madagascar, Minions are more digestible in small doses, like the Twinkies they resemble.

Contact Steve Persall at spersall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.