An obvious studio dream of a film, Minions is stacked to make money from the start
Chances are you’ve heard that the Minions movie is out.With advertising on TV, billboards, in department stores and fast food chains, it would be fairly difficult to miss. Yet again, these little, yellow marshmallows prove themselves capable of capturing hearts and filling bellies with laughter. With a top-billed cast including Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm, along with Geoffrey Rush, Michael Keaton, and Allison Janney, plus the film’s roots in the well received Despicable Me films, it’s the perfect amalgamation of variables for a highly successful summer blockbuster.Minions is a prequel to the first Despicable Me and begins as an origin story. As old as planet Earth itself, the minions have searched long and hard to find the most vicious villain to serve. From dinosaurs to the ancient Egyptians through to the Dark Ages, the minions have attended them all. At the turn of the 19th century, the minions are serving the Emperor Napoleon but, having lost the war, they seek shelter in an ice cave, where they become lethargic and apathetic at their lack of having a master to serve.
The bravest and most determined of the minions, Kevin (voiced by co-director Pierre Coffin, as are all the minions) organises a trio to go in search of a new master and ultimately to save the tribe. Along the way, Kevin, Stuart, and Bob find a boss in Scarlet Overkill (Bullock) and her inventor husband, Herb (Hamm). Scarlet’s goal is to become Queen of England, but through a series of misadventures, the minions thwart Scarlet’s plan, which alters their relationship with the world’s worst bad guy and thus their future.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the film is the reference to different cultures. Suggesting Napoleon was evil enough for the minions to be his servants also suggests an interesting cultural assumption. I wonder if the French would feel the same way about Napoleon? Or is it symptomatic of the film’s production origins? It’s a question worth pondering. The minions wandering onto the set of the first men landing on the moon calls into question the event in a humorous way, thus keeping it fair and taking a poke at American pride as well.
In the same vein, Queen Elizabeth II’s portrayal is a seemingly growing trend. Representations of Her Majesty would once be unthinkable as a living monarch was not to be characterised during their lifetime. Minions’ is set in the 1960s, and Elizabeth is a young queen with horsey teeth and a shrill accent. An obvious parody, Minions’ version of Her Majesty is more relatable to the general public and almost satirical in her appearance. A move towards that ever decreasing boundary of respect or simply an entertaining and wide-reaching storyline, I’ll let you be the judge.
Female super-villain Scarlett Overkill was somewhat lacking in her own self-efficacy.
An interesting conundrum arises from a feminist point of view regarding Scarlet Overkill. Billed as the baddest bad guy who is actually a woman, it makes me wonder if this is what society is striving for with equality? In a way, I like that the woman is powerful, intelligent and goal-oriented, but do we actually see her at work? Most of Scarlet’s screentime is spent talking or primping, whilst her husband is the one with the brainy and villainous inventions. We hear about her history as a super-villain, and indeed, she does a decent martial arts act upon introduction, but I couldn’t help feeling this female super-villain was still lacking in her own self-efficacy.
The plot to take over England was also a bit too easy. With a super-villain, I expected more from the storyline and the endeavors to secure the Queen’s crown. Instead, a bandaid fix was applied, with very little effort from Scarlet. A bit anticlimactic, it didn’t ruin the film, but it was certainly disappointing plot-wise.
Probably my favourite aspect of the film was the cultural teasing towards England’s tea-drinking culture. Bobbies in hot pursuit still maintain their tradition of drinking tea, even with sirens blaring and police cars swerving to and fro. The broadcasters also had to have their proper cuppas, on-air and served in bone china. Another nod to the well known British characteristic of cool politeness is a reporter on location who mentions his opinion about the impending coronation, before rescinding his entire monologue and reminding the audience, “I’m so very polite that I will keep my mouth shut.”
Crude humour abounds, but the theme of Minions tends to be safe enough for the whole family, and there are some genuinely cute minion moments. A European capital for a setting gives the film a little more worldwide appeal, and the viewing is suitably light and non-taxing. A decent film with a few laughs and familiar characters, Minions is sure to be successful this summer season.
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