Much as happened with “Cars 2”, secondary characters have been given the lead in a sequel and it craps out. What is cute for brief interludes in a complete story becomes boring as the feature attraction. There are many elements in this film that are clever and fun but the material needs to exist in a context that you can care about and there is no real point or goal for the story other than to be an engine for the next bit. I was a real fan of the original “Despicable Me” and I thought that “Despicable Me 2” lived up to the quality of the original, even if it was not quite as strong. I like the Minions but I did not like their stand alone film.
The movie starts off promisingly, with a clever delivery of the Universal Theme music as the credits start. The first ten minutes of the film are summarized very effectively by the main trailer. We are told of the origins of the Minions and their need to serve the most evil figure they can find. This was a little dicey from my point of view, it leads me to think that Minions would be in places that no one would ever be making a animated comedy about. This point needed to be worked on a little more because it creates a dark theme that is disturbingly distracting. If the Minions had some kind of attachment disorder that draws them to megalomaniacal figures, then it would not have quite the same undertone.
Once the longer history of the Minions is told, we are dropped into the situation where they are isolated and without a figure to follow. Three Minions go in search of a new evil character to follow. It turns out that the majority of the film is set in the 1960s, and there are only two reasons that this was done. First it is a prequel story to the events of the other films, but more importantly, it allows the film makers to raid the pop charts of the sixties for familiar tunes that the audience will latch onto for brief set pieces. The music is not an enhancement to the story telling, it is an attractant, a form of social pheromone designed to keep the adults engaged while the childish behaviors on screen delight the kids. I enjoyed hearing the Turtles, Box Tops, Stones, Kinks and assorted other icons of the period, but the tunes have almost nothing to do with the material going on in the story. It seems pretty shameless to me that this was just being done for obvious commercial reasons rather than making the story take flight, these interludes look like they paper over any need for narrative energy. I guess I should not really be surprised. The movie really is just a marketing tool anyway.
Minions are working for a corporate overlord who is selling toys, not really selling a movie. When “The Care Bears”, and “He-Man” and “G.I. Joe” were accused of it in the 1980s in TV shows and Movies, it was not as annoying as this is. This movie is more subtle, but still just a big ad for product.
I wanted to like this movie. I still find the Minions cute and if they are used in the right way, they can be funny. This movie ran out of steam for me as soon as the main evil character appears. The senseless nature of the Minions recruitment and the stupid plot points that follow are the laziest kind of storytelling one can imagine. When Sandra Bullock’s character tells the three Minions a bedtime story and makes up the plot on the spot and just uses the situation they are in at the time, she was actually doing more work than the writer of this film.
Those of you who are sick of the Minions will be gloating over this disappointment. It is going to be a leading candidate for negative lists at the end of the year. Those of us who still like the Minions will be able to move on and go back to the original two films without being wrong. In the film it is often the Minions who cause a plan to go awry, it was not the characters of the Minions who failed here, this time it was the person they served.