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dir Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda
scr Brian Lynch
prd Christopher Meledandri, Janet Healy
voices Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Pierre Coffin, Steve Coogan, Jennifer Saunders, Geoffrey Rush, Steve Carell, Katy Mixon, Hiroyuki Sanada, Dave Rosenbaum
release UK 26.Jun.15, US 10.Jul.15
15/US Universal 1h31
Evil genius: Stuart, Bob and Kevin with Scarlet
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Blissfully silly, this gently nutty comedy never quite builds up a full head of steam, avoiding the usual contrived action-comedy cliches for something much more subtle. But it's relentlessly charming, packed with witty details. And it makes up for its lightweight plot by making it impossible to watch without smiling.
Evolving long before humans, the banana-obsessed minions crave an evil master to serve. Without a villain, they set up a society in an arctic ice cave, but life seems empty. So Kevin, Stuart and Bob (voiced by director Coffin) head out to find someone despicable they can assist. They end up in 1968 New York, where they learn about the annual Villain-Con in Orlando, and from there they travel to London to work with the mega-baddie Scarlet Overkill (Bullock) and her inventor husband Herb (Hamm). But a run-in with the Queen (Saunders) complicates things.
Intriguingly, the filmmakers reject the standard elements of animated adventures, including pointless action beats and pushy moral sermons. Action here is limited to a couple of frantic chases that nudge the plot forward, and there's only the vaguest hint of a message in the way the characters are loyal to each other. Otherwise the film consists of a bunch of gibberish-spouting characters engaged in an absurdly comical series of events that never mean much but are funny enough to keep us entertained.
It's the attention to detail that wins us over, as every scene is peppered with smart visual and verbal gags, all with a groovy 1960s vibe that will probably work a lot better for adults who will recognise the Monkees' theme song sung in the minions' Esperanto-like babble. Or the point that the Brits are always drinking tea, even in the midst of a manic car chase. Yes, the variety of settings from the dinosaurs and stone age, up through human history to the era of Warhol and Bewitched offers a nonstop barrage of witty referential humour.
Directors Coffin and Balda also eschew the usual digital sheen for something surprisingly earthy and even photorealistic. Instead of the normal garish colours, the film looks like it's been washed in sunbeams. And the characters emerge as loveable goofballs who genuinely care for each other and manage to save the day despite their general mischievous ineptness. The movie may revise the historical account told in Despicable Me, but it has its own style. And it's sure to sell a lot of toys.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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