It’s easy these days to take for granted the influence that Pixar has had on storytelling for animated films in particular and child-friendly entertainment in general. Prior to the release of “Toy Story” in 1995, there was no guarantee that adults would be entertained at all by a child-friendly film, never mind be entertained as much as the kids were (even Pixar’s now-parent company Disney was guilty of that), and in fact, most movies didn’t even bother pretending to appeal to both kids and adults. As Exhibit A, I submit 1994’s “Monkey Trouble,” starring a pre-“American Beauty” Thora Birch. Nobody likes this movie.
Pixar destroyed the notion that animated movies were simply kids’ stuff, and made films that were literally fun for the whole family. “Minions,” on the other hand, is a throwback of sorts to the pre-Pixar era, the movies that make a couple of dated references to give the parents a chuckle, but are otherwise devoid of a single plot piece or angle that would engage anyone from tweens up. In fact, the movie has no story at all. It’s just one ridiculous setup after another, and none of it makes any sense, but that’s almost beside the point; the minions, much like the “Penguins of Madagascar,” are simply funnier in small doses.
The opening credits show the evolution of the minions from the dawn of time, gleefully following behind the biggest fish in the sea and then land animal, as Geoffrey Rush gently explains to us that their life’s purpose is to serve the world’s most despicable creature (more on that later). That creature changes a number of times over the years, but after a mishap involving a certain vertically challenged army general, the minions go into hiding…and completely lose their sense of purpose. Minions Kevin, Stuart, and Bob dare to seek out a new evil ruler, and after a long journey lands them in New York (it is now 1968), they have found their new boss: Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), the most villainous villain alive. The minions impress her, and she hires them for a job: steal the crown of Queen Elizabeth (Jennifer Saunders, holler!). At this point, the film’s screenwriter presumably fell asleep for weeks on end, and his screenwriting software finished the job.