Yellow fever! – “Minions” is cute, funny (slightly flat) family entertainment.

The pill-shaped, yellow, lackeys-for-evildoers so beloved by children everywhere are back, this time in their own feature film. Their debut in the clever animated movie, Despicable Me, infected the world with yellow fever. Cute and funny, they added humour and silliness to that film. But can they stand on their own?

Minions is the sequel/prequel to Despicable Me and  traces the history of these beings, from single-cell organisms to fully-grown creatures, whose biggest goal is to serve the biggest, baddest being of the day. After thousands of years, the Minions enter a time of depression, due to their propensity for accidentally killing off the master of the day: from a T-Rex during the Jurassic era, to an Egyptian pharaoh, Dracula, and the Yeti. Without being able to serve an evil leader, they have no purpose.

Enter Kevin, a minion who decides to take matters into his own hands. Along with music-loving Bob, and Banana-munching Stuart, Kevin sets off across the world to find a new master. The three land in 1960s America, and make their way to “Villaincon”, where criminals gather each year to show off their escapades. In a stroke of luck, the trio are employed by the greatest villain of all, Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock), a feminist, wicked criminal mastermind, who has designs on the crown of England’s queen Elizabeth II. Her sidekick is her flamboyant husband, Herb (Jon Hamm), who helps design her props and gadgets.

The minions are bumbling little characters in an endearing, charming way. They’re more like “jaundiced children” (as Scarlett describes them) than evil servants. Their ‘language’ (a pastiche of French, Italian, Spanish, English, and gibberish) is humorous and entertaining..

The minions’ cute factor appear to be aimed mostly at children. While I know enough adults who adore the minions, the film itself is more a series of scenes in which Kevin, Bob, and Stuart fumble from one activity to another. Scarlett Overkill is a wonderful crook, and props up the daftness of the minions.

Minions provides enough giggles throughout, but doesn’t have the intelligence of Despicable Me, and can’t compare to the series of smart, moving, thought-provoking animated films of recent months, such as Inside Out. Minions is family-friendly entertainment through-and-through, which of course isn’t necessarily bad. It just feels a little stale. Children, however, probably won’t mind.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Director: Pierre Coffin (who voices all the minions) & Kyle Balda.

Cast: Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm

South African release date: 10 July 2015

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