Despicable Me 2 (2013) & Minions (2015)

DESPICABLE ME 2
Directors: Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud
Writers: Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio
Cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Ken Jeong, Steve Coogan, Nasim Pedrad, Kristen Schaal, Vanessa Bayer.

MINIONS
Directors: Kyle Balda & Pierre Coffin
Writer: Brian Lynch
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Jennifer Saunders, Geoffrey Rush, Steve Carell.

A couple of weeks ago I was having a slightly bad day and was mentally and physically exhausted. The last thing I wanted or needed was to watch anything that could drain me even further. After debating with myself what to watch, I settled on a double feature or animated toons. I didn’t particularly care for the first installment in this series, but a lack of desire to find anything else to watch and slightly good word of mouth eventually wore me down. I should also mention that it is a personal goal of mine to have seen any film that has been nominated for an Oscar in any category (the only way I can explain why I ever saw Norbit) and Despicable Me 2 falls into this category (Minions, on the other hand seemed more the kind of movie I was looking for, something dumb that would hopefully evoke a chuckle once or twice).

Let’s start with DM2. Gru is good now and trying to be the best father he can be. After a new baddy does something bad, he is drafted by a secret government operation to aid in the identification and capture of said big bad. He gets a helper of the female variety that at first he does not want, and surprise surprise eventually turns into a romantic interest. The story is blah and predictable, with absolutely no twist or creativity. Even the settings (it mostly takes place in a mall) are ho-hum. The whole film seems to just want to capitalize on the success of the first film without adding anything new or of value (imagine that, a lazy sequel!). The best part of the whole thing? The Minions, which are still funny and entertaining, what with their crazy antics and a language mishmash that will especially satisfy someone who can decipher the nonsensically strung together words from at least a dozen different idioms. Overall, the movie was sub-par and derivative at best. I know, I know, it’s a kid’s movie! But can’t a movie for children be also good?

Which brings me to Minions. First of all it’s a prequel. It’s basically an origin story describing the lives of the tiny yellow beings and what they did before meeting Gru. Two fears: are the filmmakers capable of making something stale fresh again, and can sidekicks meant as comic relief take center stage and command a movie without getting old real quick? Heck, we all remember the train wreck that was the Friends spinoff Joey… Uh… We do… Right?! Anyways, to answer those questions: surprisingly it’s a resounding yes! The Minions are funny, if not funnier. They are fleshed out a bit more so that some of them begin having more of a personality and emotions. Focusing the attention on three Minions allows for less of a faceless mob and more audience involvement. Sandra Bullock voices Scarlett Overkill, the baddy that our little friends worked for before meeting their permanent employer in the movies we are more familiar with. While the movie still covers quite familiar territory, it does so at a really steady and engaging pace as well as with a level of irony and amusing farce that are enjoyable, and surprising for animated movies. Adults will enjoy it, at least this one did. It was exactly what was needed on a lazy hot summer afternoon.

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