The Bock’s Office: ‘Minions’ has animated absurdity at all levels
There’s a universal language in comedy that people intrinsically understand. Whether it’s someone flirting with a fire hydrant or getting repeatedly smacked in the face to remove a bee, some characters and situations are just unavoidably funny.
Don’t bother to question it; just watch a movie like “Minions” and know your intuition to chuckle is correct.
If you go…
“Minions,” rated PG
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars
Running time: 91 minutes
Starring the voices of: Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton and Allison Janney.
Ever since Earth came into existence, there have been Minions (voice of Pierre Coffin) — small, yellow, bespectacled creatures whose only goal in life is to seek out and aid the biggest, baddest thing or person around.
Many of the juggernauts of world history have had these beings at their service, and it’s no coincidence that their association with Minions inevitably led to their downfall.
Just ask the pharaohs or Napoleon Bonaparte.
Even with a dry spell in their work, the Minions can’t shake their instincts to serve a master after millennia of doing so, leading one of their own tribe, Kevin, to step up and vow to find them a new boss even if he has to traverse the globe.
Joined by lazy Stuart and tiny Bob, none of them know where to find what they’re looking for — until they stumble across the gathering of baddies known as Villain-Con 1968.
With the opportunity to work for any number of fearsome folks, the trio sets their sights on the most formidable of all: Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock), who promises that if they do her bidding, the Minions will get all they ever wanted — Respect. Power. Banana.
Co-director Coffin, who voiced these hapless henchmen in “Despicable Me,” returns to do the vocal work for the entire grouping of them, their language of Minionese a combination of gibberish interlaced with real words in Spanish, French, Italian, Hindi and other tongues.
Oddly enough, their English is most noticeable in one particular phrase: “thank you.”
The “adorable little freaks” — as they’re dubbed by a family of bank robbers they meet while hitchhiking — start to manifest more individual personalities here, rather than the group-think that was present in their other hijinks, Kevin an ambitious leader in the making and Stuart an aspiring rock star.
And Bob is… Bob — a well-meaning shrimp even by Minion standards, carrying a teddy bear everywhere he goes and possessing an attention span that can only be measured in nanoseconds.
It’s still a mystery why these things gravitate toward evil when there’s a certain nobility to their nature, but they couldn’t hope to find a better villain to kowtow to than Scarlett, voiced with gusto by Bullock as a trailblazer in the world of female larceny with a WMD — wardrobe of mass destruction — and plotting a heist of England’s crown jewels.
And, even with her husband (Jon Hamm) providing some heavy-duty tools, you won’t believe how our boys foul things up this time.
Remember how the penguins were the best thing about the “Madagascar” films? And, it only took so long before they got their own TV show and movie spin-off?
Illumination Entertainment has given so much attention to the Minions that it only makes sense they’d give them their own feature, even if this prequel does little to explain why they are the way they are.
After all, the best cronies don’t need a backstory, right?
The greater focus on these bizarre little guys speaks to how well the studio acknowledges the appeal Minions have to kids in particular, yet it’s this same demographic that won’t fully appreciate this escapade.
There’s plenty of comic fodder in setting the story in the Swinging ‘60s, but is anyone younger than 18 really going to comprehend moments like Kevin, Stuart and Bob getting trampled by George Harrison during the iconic photograph on Abbey Road?
The period music that includes The Kinks, The Doors, The Who and The Turtles is enjoyable for adults, sure, but it feels like this entry should be more accessible to kids, who obviously won’t discriminate when the boys burst out in their own version of The Monkees’ theme song, yet they still deserve something that’s not quite so over their heads.
More than likely, the younger ones in the audience will have a response similar to Kevin’s when asked to identify a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (Jennifer Saunders) — Uh, la cucaracha? — and maybe it’s that nonsensical method that makes it work.
At any rate, “Minions” manages to be hilarious for all ages. Even if you’re not giggling for the same reasons, sometimes getting the joke is the least important part of the impetus to just laugh.
One last thought — Long live King Bob.