MOVIES
Review

'Minions' has irresistible, wonky golden touch

Kenneth Turan
Contact ReporterLos Angeles Times Film Critic

Who doesn't love the minions? Nominally devoted to evil but also, to borrow a phrase from Raymond Chandler, cute as lace pants, these capsule-shaped and overall-wearing creatures are so appealing that even those not wild about "Despicable Me" found them difficult to resist.

But could these wacky wayfarers carry an entire movie on their own, or would they be doomed to eternal second-bananahood, relegated to supporting tacky villains who lacked their ineffable effervescence? Now "Minions" the movie is here, and the news is good.

As written by Brian Lynch and directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, "Minions'" all-silliness all-the-time philosophy will put a smile on faces and keep it there, like a fizzy beverage on a hot afternoon.

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Set up as a kind of cracked prequel to the previous "Despicable Me" features, "Minions" is not any great shakes in terms of plot — and what it has runs out of steam before the end — but in a film like this the story is only an excuse to hang amusing characters and gags on, and "Minions" has both in abundance.

Combining the inventive visual slapstick of old Looney Tunes efforts and the wisenheimer sensibility of "Rocky and His Friends," "Minions" is rich in situations it can put its antic yellow creatures into.

And Coffin, who co-directed both "Despicable Me" films, also excels at voicing the amusing polyglot nonsense language that is the essential lingua franca of Miniondom.

"It is gibberish," Coffin confirmed to Britain's the Guardian newspaper. "It's a mixture of all the languages of the world, and it's about finding a particular magical rhythm and melody that makes the nonsense make sense."

These minions not only talk, they are quite fond of singing in their particular way as well, and because "Minions" is set in the 1960s, you can hear these little guys tackle everything from the theme from "The Monkees" to the Beatles' "Revolution."

Even better for the film's energy level, many of its sequences are set to an exceptional collection of '60s rock classics like the Kinks' "You Really Got Me," the Who's "My Generation," the Doors' "Break on Through (To the Other Side)," the Box Tops' "The Letter," the Rolling Stones' "19th Nervous Breakdown," the Spencer Davis Group's "I'm a Man." And more.

"Minions" begins not in the 1960s but, as narrator Geoffrey Rush tells us, at the very dawn of time. "Minions," he wonderfully intones, "have been on the planet longer than we have," and their goal has always been the same: to serve the most despicable master they could find.

But because the minions bring bad luck and even accidental death to masters who comically include such figures as Napoleon and Dracula, they are often on their own, a state that leaves them listless and even depressed.

To rescue them from that terminal lethargy, minion Kevin comes up with a plan. He will venture out into the wider world and, accompanied only by harebrained would-be rocker Stuart and the overly enthusiastic Bob, that's just what he does.

The minions' quest initially lands them in New York in 1968, where we watch them acquire their trademark overalls. Their attention is caught by a TV spot for a convention in Orlando, Fla., called Villain Con, the world's premier gathering of evildoers. Just the place, they figure, to find the villain of their dreams.

After hitching a ride with a family of dubious morality whose car license plate reads "Luv 2 Rob" (parents voiced by Michael Keaton and Allison Janney), the minions find themselves irresistibly drawn to the convention's keynote address to be given by Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), the world's first female super villain whose motto is "Doesn't it feel so good to be bad."

Calling the trio "my knights in shining denim," Scarlet takes the minions on staff and also brings them back to London with her on her private jet (crime really does pay in this movie.)

She introduces the guys to her mod-dressing mad scientist husband Herb Overkill (Jon Hamm) and gives them an assignment they dare not screw up: Steal the crown off the head of Elizabeth II and pass it on to Scarlet. Or else.

As noted, the plotting in "Minions" does go a bit wonky (would you believe Bob as the king of England?), but it matters not. Minions provide endless amusement just by being themselves, and how many of today's movie characters can you say that about?

Twitter: @KennethTuran

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'Minions'

MPAA rating: PG, for action and rude humor

Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

Playing: In general release

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