Minions, which ought properly to be sub-titled “Any colour so long as its yellow” is a zany, impossible, ever-so-slightly patchy comic tale of dastardly villains, daring deeds – and bananas. Located in 1968, alongside a mostly contemporary 60’s soundtrack, this is good-natured prequel, providing back story to how our little lemon-tinted heroes came to work for Gru, arch-villain of the Despicable Me franchise.
A 60’s romp
They are it appears, a symbiotic species, happiest when playing second fiddle to the biggest baddest bad guys on the scene: but not always the most competent of fiddlers. Thus, we learn of disastrous assist given to Mr T Rex, clearly the baddest in the food chain, then fast forward a million years or so to equally disastrous efforts in the stone age, ancient Egypt and lastly, Napoleonic times.
Thwarted in their efforts to provide support, the minions head off into unhappy exile in the snow and ice, emerging only in 1968, when the unlikely trio of Kevin, Bob and Stuart set out to find the world’s greatest villain. She turns up in the shape of Miss Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock), who commissions them to steal the crown jewels.
Chaos ensues. There is some amiable nonsense about the Sword in the Stone, leading, briefly, to Bob being declared King of England: several encounters with our own Queen Liz (Jennifer Saunders), decidedly more kick-ass than the likes of Helen Mirren credit her; and a final set-piece battle between minions and an increasingly psychotic Scarlett, leaving much of London in ruins. Oddly, no reports of this survives in histories of that era.
For kids and grandparents
Minions is very funny. It is the first of the season’s two big movies, aimed at the “kids and tweens market” to premiere in the UK – the other, Inside Out, lands in early July – and it is likely you may want to take your children to see both.
No, scratch that: it is likely that your children will demand that you accompany them to both. Although given the non-stop 60’s in-jokery, from tricky Dicky election posters, to minions turning up at the Beatles Abbey Road photoshoot, and a quite disturbing pastiche of the musical Hair involving three semi-naked and hypnotised Beefeaters in dayglo wigs – yes, you DID read that right! – this might be as much a film for children and grandparents.
There are cameo “appearances” voiced by Steve Coogan, Michael Keaton, and a seriously louche performance by Jon Hamm, playing Scarlett’s hubby, Herb Overkill. Shades, in every sense, of 60’s bad boy Serge Gainsbourg.
The downside, if any, lies in the fact that the minions do not speak: or rather, they are limited to their own peculiar brand of gobbledygook (with lead minions voiced by director Pierre Coffin), which means the first fifteen minutes or so of the film delivers humour in a series of visual gags. However, the audience didn’t seem to mind, laughing as loudly at the start as during the rest of the film. Just so long as no director is persuaded by this that mime has a future.
The dialogue is constantly on target, the action energetic, frantic, to the point where one wonders whether the script team had not decided to “turn on, tune in and drop out” in some ultimate salute to 60’s anarchy.
And the soundtrack! Oh, the soundtrack! There’s Aerosmith (not quite 60’s): there’s Jimmy Hendrix, the Doors, the Turtles, the Kinks, the Who. And at the end i sashayed out to – what else! – Mellow Yellow by Donovan.
One last tip, when you do go to see this, as you must: don’t get up to go the moment the credits roll. Because in addition to annoying everyone else, you’ll miss the music, and you’ll miss the gags slotted, easter egg style, in-between the production details.
Disappointed to find no soundtrack cd in the foyer, here are just a few of the highlights:
And of course – a personal favourite: