Skip to main content

Wow. Who... who are you, my... knights in... shining denim?

Minions
(2015)

It doesn’t take a genius to see why the Minions are such a phenomenon, surpassing the Despicable Me franchise that spawned them (or rather, they’re now enshrined as the underpinning for its massive success). That doesn’t make Minions a great movie, though. It’s as agreeably slipshod and pasted together as you’d expect from an attempt to beat supporting characters into the position of leads, but it nevertheless represents something of a pinnacle as a spin-off and prequel that’s successful in its own right. Usually they stink.


Penguins of Madagascar dealt with the prequel bit in its opening scene, which was also the best scene in a rather sorry affair that, like Minions, struggled to find a tale worth telling. Minions is more transparent in its deficiencies there. It doesn’t even bother trying to explain why such cute, imitable and well-meaning ba-nana-loving fellows are obsessed with serving evil masterminds. They just are. So we get the lowdown on what they did before joining Gru, at its best during a highly inventive (yes) prologue in which they join, and unwittingly undermine, various bosses throughout history, leading to the extinction of the dinosaurs, the demise of ancient Egypt, a brief spell with Count Dracula and an alliance with the always-good-for-a-height-gag Napoleon.


And fetching up in the ‘60s is a massively advantageous decision, since it means the rest of the plot can be strung together with pop hits from the era (with additional help from Geoffrey Rush’s engaging narrator). Not since the early days of DreamWorks Animation has a cartoon feature so shrewdly employed pop songs. Did you ever expect to hear The Doors in a kids’ movie? Should they have? I have no idea. This is a feature featuring a humorous interlude in which a giant Kevin appears to take a whizz.


Kevin, Stuart and Bob find themselves a new despicable boss in the form of Sandra Bullock’s Scarlet Overkill, before embarking for Swinging London. She’s a reasonable but unremarkable villain, much as the ‘60s England setting starts off well (police drinking tea during a high-speed pursuit) but descends into rather desperate spitballing that finds Bob crowned king and Kevin inflated to the aforementioned enormous size. You’re never far from something engaging, though, be it Bob’s friendship with a rat, Scarlet Overkill reading The Three Little Pigs to the three little Minions, the hypno-hat (great use of Hair, with guards reduced to their underwear) or irreverent asides (“Do you think its funny, to mock the elderly?” asks the Keeper of the Crown; “Yeah” comes the reply).


I guess returning Despicable Me (co-)director Pierre Coffin could hardly have passed on duties seeing as how he also voices the trio of Minions. It’s a terrifically inventive, catchy performance(s), but has limited scope for variation, which definitely means the entire movie consists of casting around for things to do. It’s only a surprise Minions is as sustained as it is, that it even got far enough to run out of interesting things to do in the last third. As such, it seems churlish to complain that it might have been better, since I’m not sure it could have been. It exists purely for the cash/merchandising wee ones will get their parents to put down, which means there’s sure be a Minions 2 after Despicable Me 3. A billon dollars worldwide guarantees it.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Damn prairie dog burrow!

Tremors (1990) (SPOILERS) I suspect the reason the horror comedy – or the sci-fi comedy, come to that – doesn’t tend to be the slam-dunk goldmine many assume it must be, is because it takes a certain sensibility to do it right. Everyone isn’t a Joe Dante or Sam Raimi, or a John Landis, John Carpenter, Edgar Wright, Christopher Landon or even a Peter Jackson or Tim Burton, and the genre is littered with financial failures, some of them very good failures (and a good number of them from the names mentioned). Tremors was one, only proving a hit on video (hence six sequels at last count). It also failed to make Ron Underwood a directing legend.

Here’s Bloody Justice for you.

Laughter in Paradise (1951) (SPOILERS) The beginning of a comedic run for director-producer Mario Zampa that spanned much of the 1950s, invariably aided by writers Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies (the latter went on to pen a spate of Norman Wisdom pictures including The Early Bird , and also comedy rally classic Monte Carlo or Bust! ) As usual with these Pertwee jaunts, Laughter in Paradise boasts a sparky premise – renowned practical joker bequeaths a fortune to four relatives, on condition they complete selected tasks that tickle him – and more than enough resultant situational humour.

I hate natural causes!

Body Bags (1993) (SPOILERS) I’m not surprised Showtime didn’t pick this up for an anthology series. Perhaps, if John Carpenter had made Coming Home in a Body Bag (the popular Nam movie series referenced in the same year’s True Romance ), we’d have something to talk about. Tho’ probably not, if Carpenter had retained his by this point firmly glued to his side DP Gary Kibbe, ensuring the proceedings are as flat, lifeless and unatmospheric as possible. Carpenter directed two of the segments here, Tobe Hooper the other one. It may sound absurd, given the quality of Hooper’s career, but by this point, even he was calling the shots better than Carpenter.

I'm offering you a half-share in the universe.

Doctor Who Season 8 – Worst to Best I’m not sure I’d watched Season Eight chronologically before. While I have no hesitation in placing it as the second-best Pertwee season, based on its stories, I’m not sure it pays the same dividends watched as a unit. Simply, there’s too much Master, even as Roger Delgado never gets boring to watch and the stories themselves offer sufficient variety. His presence, turning up like clockwork, is inevitably repetitive. There were no particular revelatory reassessments resulting from this visit, then, except that, taken together – and as The Directing Route extra on the Blu-ray set highlights – it’s often much more visually inventive than what would follow. And that Michael Ferguson should probably have been on permanent attachment throughout this era.

Who’s got the Figgy Port?

Loki (2021) (SPOILERS) Can something be of redeemable value and shot through with woke? The two attributes certainly sound essentially irreconcilable, and Loki ’s tendencies – obviously, with new improved super-progressive Kevin Feige touting Disney’s uber-agenda – undeniably get in the way of what might have been a top-tier MCU entry from realising its full potential. But there are nevertheless solid bursts of highly engaging storytelling in the mix here, for all its less cherishable motivations. It also boasts an effortlessly commanding lead performance from Tom Hiddleston; that alone puts Loki head and shoulders above the other limited series thus far.

I’m just glad Will Smith isn’t alive to see this.

The Tomorrow War (2021) (SPOILERS). Not so much tomorrow as yesterday. There’s a strong sense of déjà vu watching The Tomorrow War , so doggedly derivative is it of every time-travel/alien war/apocalyptic sci-fi movie of the past forty years. Not helping it stand out from the pack are doughy lead Chris Pratt, damned to look forever on the beefy side no matter how ripped he is and lacking the chops or gravitas for straight roles, and debut live-action director Chris McKay, who manages to deliver the goods in a serviceably anonymous fashion.

Why don't we go on a picnic, up the hill?

Invaders from Mars (1986) (SPOILERS) One can wax thematical over the number of remakes of ’50s movies in the ’80s – and ’50s SF movies in particular – and of how they represent ever-present Cold War and nuclear threats, and steadily increasing social and familial paranoias and disintegrating values. Really, though, it’s mostly down to the nostalgia of filmmakers for whom such pictures were formative influences (and studios hoping to make an easy buck on a library property). Tobe Hooper’s version of nostalgia, however, is not so readily discernible as a John Carpenter or a David Cronenberg (not that Cronenberg could foment such vibes, any more than a trip to the dental hygienist). Because his directorial qualities are not so readily discernible. Tobe Hooper movies tend to be a bit shit. Which makes it unsurprising that Invaders from Mars is a bit shit.

What's a movie star need a rocket for anyway?

The Rocketeer (1991) (SPOILERS) The Rocketeer has a fantastic poster. One of the best of the last thirty years (and while that may seem like faint praise, what with poster design being a dying art – I’m looking at you Marvel, or Amazon and the recent The Tomorrow War – it isn’t meant to be). The movie itself, however, tends towards stodge. Unremarkable pictures with a wide/cult fanbase, conditioned by childhood nostalgia, are ten-a-penny – Willow for example – and in this case, there was also a reasonably warm critical reception. But such an embrace can’t alter that Joe Johnston makes an inveterately bland, tepid movie director. His “feel” for period here got him The First Avenger: Captain America gig, a bland, tepid movie tending towards stodge. So at least he’s consistent.

Hey, my friend smells amazing!

Luca (2021) (SPOILERS) Pixar’s first gay movie ? Not according to director Enrico Cassarosa (“ This was really never in our plans. This was really about their friendship in that kind of pre-puberty world ”). Perhaps it should have been, as that might have been an excuse – any excuse is worth a shot at this point – for Luca being so insipid and bereft of spark. You know, the way Soul could at least claim it was about something deep and meaningful as a defence for being entirely lacking as a distinctive and creatively engaging story in its own right.

As in the hokey kids’ show guy?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t think Mr Rogers could have been any creepier had Kevin Spacey played him. It isn’t just the baggage Tom Hanks brings, and whether or not he’s the adrenochrome lord to the stars and/or in Guantanamo and/or dead and/or going to make a perfectly dreadful Colonel Tom Parker and an equally awful Geppetto; it’s that his performance is so constipated and mannered an imitation of Mr Rogers’ genuineness that this “biopic” takes on a fundamentally sinister turn. His every scene with a youngster isn’t so much exuding benevolent empathy as suggestive of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ’s Child Catcher let loose in a TV studio (and again, this bodes well for Geppetto). Extend that to A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood ’s conceit, that Mr Rogers’ life is one of a sociopathic shrink milking angst from his victims/patients in order to get some kind of satiating high – a bit like a rejuvenating drug, on that score – and you have a deeply unsettli