MINIONS


MINIMAL ENTERTAINMENT




what is this unexpected sense of delight we adults get watching animated TV shows like Shaun the Sheep or Tom and Jerry? Back in High school, all I did was watch The Simpsons or Family Guy or South Park, shows that are actually meant for an older audience but I also loved those minimalist shows. Of course I never admitted it back then, it just never was cool. But in college, what was cool became not-that-cool, and everyone was enthusiastic about celebrating their own individual identities. It was surprising to find out how many people loved this kind of quirky stuff. And what was even more surprising for them was to find out that many of the best Tom and Jerry episodes were made during the Cold War era.

Both of the shows (Tom… and Shaun…) have some things that were designed to predominantly appeal to children; like the fact that there is almost never any dialogue or that every episode ends with more or less the same outcome. We always know that Shaun will somehow be able to squeeze out of any snag he or his buddies have created or that Jerry Mouse always comes out a winner. But we do not care. What impresses us most is that, within that tiny time frame, there is a simple but exciting story that always ends up in lots of fun. It is not that Jerry gets to win all the time, what matters is how creatively. But there has been something about these characters that has always bugged me; will I be able to enjoy Tom, Jerry and Shaun for an extended amount of time, like in a feature film?

In all honesty, I should say that the comparison I am about to make with the above characters and the minions (stars of the movie I am reviewing) is a bit sloppy. I may not like to see Shaun, his narcissistic dog, his sketchy group of sheep friends and his mentally incapacitated human owner for two hours straight but I like them as they are; when they are obstructed by the right amount of a tiny running time slot. I was not as nuts about the minions to begin with. They are yellow, cylindrical shaped fictional species whose only purpose in life is to serve the most loathsome creatures they can find. But my indifference towards them is not entirely based on moral convictions (I love every single one of the Family Guy characters and there are none more despicable), but because they are not funny. They may be cute, or even lovable, but every single joke they male is so incredibly random.

Minions is the obvious spin-off we have all been expecting. The most lovable creatures from the Despicable Me franchise get their own movie because everyone wants more of them. But the movie also serves as a prequel to the franchise and explores the evolution of the minions; like who, and what they are.

As it happens, minions came into existence at the same time as malign bacteria. And as life evolved and became more complex, the minions graduated into assisting more defined villains like the T-Rex. But the T-Rex proves not to be the ultimate villain when destructive man comes to existence. After that, human beings become their primary customers. They aid some very dreadful people like the Egyptian pharaohs, Dracula (he was a human being, kind of) and Napoleon Bonaparte. But their last master, Napoleon, takes their incompetence way too seriously and runs them into Antarctica; which is sad for the minions because it robs them of the chance to serve the greatest villain of all time (the job instead went to Goebbels).

After their more than century-long exile and deficit of a master, three minions (Kevin, Stuart and Bob) rise to the challenge of searching for a new one. By the time this happens the year is 1968, and rock has been created. The only good thing about the movie is that it is filled with classic 60’s rock songs. The atom has been split, rockets have been sent to the moon and the world’s greatest contemporary villain is not Mao Zedong but Scarlet Overkill. The film after this point falls over the rails and loses all intention of actually telling a story.

The minions are recruited by Scarlet to steal the Queen of England’s crown but somehow, Stuart ends up being crowned King of England. However, he soon abdicates his throne and gives it to Scarlet and so on and so on. The movie becomes a comedy for comedy’s sake and a spin-off for spin-off’s sake.

Normally, I would mention who has directed, written or starred in the movie but I just do not see the point here. The filmmakers are not at all interested in creating something that is relatable and the voice actors add no dynamism to the characters they are voicing. As far as animated movies go, Minions is as simple, as childish and as trite it gets.

I love animated movies, they are the best example of showing that, if need be, a movie can be entertaining, fun, intimate and cerebral all at the same time. Last year’s How to Train Your Dragon 2 and The Lego Movie (which somehow was not even nominated for an Oscar), were incredible, and so was this year’s Inside Out. I remember being enchanted with movies like The Lion King when I was a kid, just to be completely blown away with them after growing up.

And a movie is supposed to be like that: universal. It may choose an audience based on the kind of theme and meaning it has but its impact should not be restricted by age or gender. Who says men cannot enjoy romantic comedies or that adults cannot enjoy an animated family movie? Annie Hall and Ratatouille speak equally to all of us. Minions is much more subjective as its aim is an audience that is not too serious about either life or movies, and that may have made the movie easy to create but not easy to watch, at least not for most of us.



By CHRISTIAN TESFAYE


Published on Aug 03,2015 [ Vol 16 ,No 796]


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