From sidekicks to centre-stage superstars, the Minions have busted out of the ‘Despicable Me’ franchise and gone rogue in this berserk slice of semi-silent slapstick silliness. Little, yellow, peachy-keen, and essentially useless, the Minions are part of an animated tradition stretching back to the brooms in ‘Fantasia’, the Doozers in ‘Fraggle Rock’ and the aliens in ‘Toy Story’. But can they carry an entire film?
The answer – surprisingly, pleasingly and resoundingly – is yes. Cut loose from the family-values slushiness of their parent franchise, the Minions are free to indulge their basest, weirdest, most randomly hilarious instincts. The plot is simple and largely irrelevant. Set before ‘Despicable Me’ in the heady summer of 1968, the film follows three Minions – bossy Kevin, reluctant Stuart and toddler-on-a-sugar-jag Bob – as they search for a new evil master to serve. They fix upon Scarlett Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock), a female super-villain making waves in the global community of evil.
The film’s weakest aspect is, perhaps predictably, its human side: Scarlett is little more than a Cruella de Vil clone – though her feckless husband Herb (Jon Hamm) is louchely wonderful. And the geeky idea of a villainous subculture with its own icons and fan conventions feels a bit trite. But the action sequences are wild, the jokes relentlessly dumb-but-smart, and the sheer sense of anything-goes daftness – which reaches a pinnacle when Bob draws the sword from the stone and is crowned King of England, to the disgruntlement of Her Actual Maj (Jennifer Saunders) – is glorious.