The Despicable Three…
No such fate awaits the Minions, though, who effortlessly take centre stage in a Despicable Me spin-off so busy, witty and all-round entertaining you won’t have time to pine for the absent Steve Carell.
In truth, the pint-sized lemon functionaries outgrew Gru some time ago: the mock auditions for a Minions movie that played over the end credits of Despicable Me 2 resembled not so much a gag as a coup d’état. But the makers of Minions haven’t taken any chances, creating a backstory prologue for their pill-shaped protagonists’ first solo feature that gives any DM hold-outs no excuse not to join the fun.
Genially narrated by Geoffrey Rush, this introduction spells out the basics – that the Minions have spent most of recorded time seeking detestable bosses to serve under; that their Minion-strations tend to prove fatal to everybody who utilises them (Prehistoric Man, Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte); and that any scene that doesn’t deliver its punchline within 15 seconds and counting belongs in a different picture altogether.
Preliminaries over, directors Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin begin the story proper by sending three of their gibberish-spouting sweetcorn-alikes – go-getting Kevin, testy Stuart and good-natured Bob – out into the world to find someone new to work for. The hunt takes them first to New York, then to Orlando and ultimately to London, there to help a female supervillain – Sandra Bullock’s Scarlet Overkill, all spindly limbs, malevolent grin and towering beehive – depose the Queen and assume the British throne.
OK, so it’s not much of a plot. But at least it’s on a level with the prevailing ethos of free-wheeling anarchy, one that encompasses ’60s in-jokes (“Nixon – a name you can trust!”), a Bonnie And Clyde family of crime-committing suburbanites and a rendition of ‘Make ’Em Laugh’ for an audience of yawning Yetis.
Crazy gadgets include a hypno-hat and a lava gun, there’s a clown who juggles bombs while riding a unicycle, and it all ends with an extended Godzilla parody in Trafalgar Square. The soundtrack, meanwhile, serves up a terrific time-capsule of vintage hits that will double as a musical life-raft for parents obliged to sit through this film more than once by their Minion-mad infants.