Minions!

Despicable Me, the runaway hit of 2010, was supposed to be about the ultimate baddie turned good.

Gru, a supervillain with more than a passing resemblance to Dara O’Briain, adopts three girls as part of the ultimate evil plan and eventually learns to love them, warming all our hearts. But you could be forgiven for thinking the film was about something different altogether.

Minions.

Now, they’re getting their own movie. That’s right: a full-length feature all about the babbling pains-in-the-arse. Two hours or so of gibberish and slapstick, in which the Minions manage to kill all their previous masters (including a T-Rex, Napoleon, and Dracula) and so have to find a new despicable overlord to serve. Three particularly brave little Minions called Kevin, Stuart and Bob then end up having to save all Minionkind from extinction. And frankly, I wish they wouldn’t bother.

The news of the Minions movie was hardly surprising, as they’ve become a hugely successful brand. In the high street store where I work, you can buy just about anything with a goggle-eyed Minion face plastered on – kids’ headphones, a cutlery set, a onesie to turn your toddler into your very own mischief-making loyal servant.  And it’s not just the kiddies; plenty of adults have fallen under the spell too.

This morning on my way to the bus stop I spotted a Minion garden gnome. Its single eye followed me as I quickened my step and marched down the street away from the little horror. Last time I went to the cinema, the dystopian revolutionary drama of The Hunger Games was preceded by a horrible Minion choir singing Christmas carols. There is no escape.

The Minions’ creators claim that they never expected them to become such icons. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times one of Despicable Me’s writers, Cinco Paul, said, “We never knew the minions were going to be so popular; it just became a force of nature”. Whatever Paul might claim, there’s no denying his team have hit the jackpot with the little yellow pests. The Minions’ own unintelligible speech means they’re all about clumsiness and body language that crosses cultural barriers and appeals to all ages, however childish it may actually be.

With this recipe for success, the Minions could have been one of the better bunches of sidekicks to come out of recent animated movies. There’s definitely something infuriatingly lovable about them, and they were pretty great at driving Despicable Me 2’s otherwise lacklustre plot. Sadly, though, they’ve become a bit of a cash cow instead. Minions was supposed to be out this Christmas, but has had its release date pushed back to exploit the massive money-making potential of a summer release. It seems pretty obvious that this movie isn’t being made out of a deep love of the characters and desire to take them further. And when that’s missing, and sequels and spinoffs are made just so the studios can count their ever-increasing stacks of dollars, they tend to be just plain bad.

Take a look at the Shrek movies: while Shrek and Shrek 2 were up there with the best animated movies of all time, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After were unbearably dull in comparison. Cars was great fun, but with Cars 2 even the animation gods that are Pixar managed to mess things up. Compare that to the Toy Story trilogy. We got three beautifully made, hilarious and heart-warming films about a group of characters the studio clearly cared about as much as the viewers. (The baffling news of Toy Story 4 made me pretty upset – why ruin such a perfect series?)

Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge Minions, but I have a strong suspicion it’ll fall firmly into the former category. The film might follow the yellow army in their quest to find their true purpose in life, but unfortunately, the money-spinning purpose of the film itself is a lot less mysterious. Be prepared, dear readers. The Minions are only going to get bigger, louder, and even more annoying.

[Lauren Cummings – @__laurenC]

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