Minions

Since I already committed blasphemy a few weeks back with my lukewarm review of Pixar’s Inside Out, why not keep the ball rolling?

Ready?

I enjoyed Minions more than Inside Out. I laughed more. I smiled more. And I was flat-out entertained more.

Not only was the animation higher-quality (hey, I’m as surprised as you), Minions was fun, frantic, and just ridiculous enough– without being stupid. I’m not saying it’s Oscar-worthy– there’s no deep, lasting message and no sense that it has any staying power… but it’s the best animated movie to hit theaters so far this year.

To be honest, I was nervous going in. Generally a pre-release marketing campaign as– well, let’s just say as aggressive as Minions’ is a sure sign of over-compensation for bad initial reviews. (Is there any product the minions haven’t been hocking over the past month? They even sponsored NBCSN’s Tour de France coverage, of all things.) It turns out, though, that I (and Universal) had little to fear.

Billed as a prequel to the Despicable Me films, Minions starts in the prehistoric era, as the newly-evolved yellow blobs begin their innate hunt for an evil master. They bounce from dinosaur to caveman to even Napoleon before finally hitting the end of the road and sequestering themselves in an ice cave (random, I know). Then in 1968, minions Kevin, Stuart, and Bob decide to head out, for the good of the herd, and make one last ditch effort to find someone evil to serve.

They eventually make it to a secret, underground Villain-Con in Orlando, where they win a chance to become henchmen for the world’s first female super-villain, Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock). Their mission? Steal the Queen of England’s crown.

Co-directed by Kyle Balda (The Lorax) and Despicable Me’s Pierre Coffin from a screenplay by Hop writer Brian Lynch, Minions is fast-paced and full of scattershot, random moments. In one ninety-second span, the Minions befriend a rat in the London sewers, crash a funeral, steal a floral arrangement, and trip on the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover photo shoot. And for every bit of infantile humor (hypnotized Palace guards dance around in their boxers) there’s a smart, well-conceived bit of humor that hits its mark.

Bullock is great (playing a villain for the first time in her career) as the high-strung Overkill. But it’s the supporting players, including Jon Hamm (unrecognizable as Overkill’s husband) and Michael Keaton and Allison Janney in bit parts who shine most.

The animators made sure to take full advantage of the 3D (in sharp contrast with Inside Out), and there’s even a lengthy post-credits scene that is well worth sticking around for.

If you still need more, well– I’ll just say that there’s even a scene at the end that perfectly ties Minions in with the Despicable Me films.

Ball’s in your court, Pixar.

4/5 stars