Minions: they’re cute, yellow and mostly unintelligible — and they’re everywhere. Off screen, it certainly feels that way, with every store seemingly filled with brightly coloured merchandise. On screen, it definitely feels that way in their first stand-alone film. That's the point, though. Those mumbling, bumbling critters first sighted in Despicable Me and its sequel are inescapable, both in the antics they cause, and to audiences.
In fact, minions aren't just prevalent in every frame of the movie that shares their name; as the film makes plain, the overalls-and-goggles-wearing fellows have always been here. An amusing introduction big on revisionist history and narrated by Australia's own Geoffrey Rush charts their evolution from the sea to swarming around a host of bad guys — dinosaurs, pharaohs, Dracula and Napoleon included. Those with short memories might need reminding that the titular figures are the ultimate henchmen, living to serve villainous masters. That's what they seek in 1968, and wreak havoc across several continents to find.
After bad luck with their previous horrible bosses, and centuries spent holed up in an icy Antarctic cave as a result, leader Kevin, teddy bear-clutching Bob and guitar-playing Stuart (all voiced by co-director and Despicable Me veteran Pierre Coffin) trundle back to civilisation to find a new scoundrel to trail. At a convention for rogues and rascals, they team up with the scheming Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock), who tasks them with stealing the crown of Queen Elizabeth II (Jennifer Saunders). To say things don't go smoothly is an understatement. Soon, the trio is fleeing from their would-be overlord and her inventor husband (Jon Hamm).
Expect slapstick hijinks aplenty, with much of the mayhem designed with the minions' adorable nature in mind and little else. In general, the golden, rounded figures don't make that much sense, so it follows that neither does the madcap movie and its frantic array of gags. Eschewing logic, abandoning emotional awakenings and avoiding imparting a message add to the delight of the film in this day and age of lesson-centric all-ages affairs. As they flit across the screen to a period-appropriate soundtrack of the Rolling Stones, the Doors, the Who and the Beatles, the sidekicks turned stars simply enjoy revelling in silliness and anarchy.
That's what Minions is: chaotic, amusing fun, albeit of the slight, sweet and ultimately disposable variety. In what amounts to an origin story, Coffin and his crew never take anything too seriously, including shoehorning in as many nods to other genres as they can — such as superhero flicks, of course, as well as royal comedies and even monster movies. They also never forget that, in their first two big screen outings, the minions were the primary source of comic relief. No doubt they'll be fulfilling that role again in Despicable Me 3, due out in 2017, but for now, they do just fine lapping up the limelight all by themselves.