Film Review South Africa

Bananatastic Minion madness

Fun is upgraded with zany Minions joviality in a well-deserved 'biopic' that vividly answers a questions fans have been asking since their superstardom in the Despicable Me series: Where do the Minions come from? It's a joyful journey with tons of laughs into the origins of these adorable happy-face yellow creatures that begins at the dawn of time where they started their animated life as single-celled yellow organisms, and evolved through the ages, perpetually serving the most despicable of masters.

An incredibly clever visual odyssey

The three chosen yellow stooges destined for fame embark upon a thrilling journey with some wonderfully original histrionic and hysterical moments that shows how they were responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs, the demise of Count Dracula, ignited Napoleon's fury and unleashed Pharaoh's wrath.

Bananatastic Minion madness

Minions is an incredibly clever visual odyssey delivered in a language that defies description (or imitation) and is pure gibberish, yet one we all understand, and love so well - just listen to how people talk to their babies or pets and Minion speak makes absolute sense! It's this miscommunication and misunderstanding of vital information that fuels the Minions desire to be heard as they overcome impossible obstacles to get their banana or reach their next potential master, Scarlet Overkill, the world's first-ever female super-villain (wonderfully voiced by Sandra Bullock).

Equally brilliant in their voicing artistry is Jon Hamm (TV's Mad Men, Bridesmaids) as Herb Overkill, Scarlet's mod-scientist husband; Michael Keaton (Birdman) as patriarch of his felonious troupe, Jennifer Saunders (TV's Absolutely Fabulous, Shrek 2) as the surprisingly spry and ribald Queen Elizabeth II; and Geoffrey Rush makes a charming narrator who takes us along this fascinating and brilliant journey.

Directed with verve and relentless vigour by Pierre Coffin (Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2) and Kyle Balda (Dr. Seuss' The Lorax), Minions offers ideal entertainment for anyone who wants to escape into the imaginative world of animation.

Behind the scenes

After the unprecedented success of both the blockbuster Despicable Me and its beloved follow-up, Despicable Me 2, there was a global appetite for more stories from the world that was created in Illumination Entertainment's inaugural series. Audiences everywhere have become transfixed by the Minions and were more than curious to understand where Gru's loyal and haphazard crew came from, who they were before they met their ultimate master and what other adventures they'd been on since they appeared on our planet.

Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri explains that in their typical subversively sweet fashion, the Minions got their own way when it came to a prequel story. He says: "We didn't set out to give the Minions their own movie, the Minions demanded it. After Despicable Me 2 was finished, we found that our team -which is made up of hundreds of the most talented individuals with whom I have ever had the privilege of working - could not stop themselves from animating these characters."

Since the Minions were introduced on screen in summer 2010, Meledandri and his fellow filmmakers have watched as the tribe and their mayhem have been deeply embraced by worldwide audiences. He feels that the connection we have found with them comes down to their irrepressible spirit. The producer shares: "This spirit comes from a combination of their design, the animators who bring them to life and their vocalisations under the direction of Pierre and Kyle, and previously Pierre and Chris. Together, they have created a persona that is just irresistible."

For Meledandri, the duality of the characters' nature adds to audience's demand for more stories about the universally accessible Minions. He says: "They're not just adorable. They're so appealing because of this contradiction between their aspiration to be bad, and their essential nature that makes them so good. We all have that side to us." That relatability and connectivity is, for Meledandri, the key to all of Illumination's movies. "The most impactful aspect of coming to see one of our films is the bond that audiences form with our characters."

Bananatastic Minion madness

Our three leads don't speak English

One of the valuable assets to the team is writer Brian Lynch, who wrote Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, based on the series, and gladly accepted the challenge to write Minions. "We all have a little Minion in us, some of us more than others," says Lynch " People have so many questions about who the Minions are and where they came from that we realized it would be a lot of fun to answer those."

"Having Minion voices in your head can be scary, but it was really helpful in this case," laughs Lynch. "Fortunately, Pierre does the voice of the Minions, so any time I had a question about how they would act, he knew." Crafting the dialog for the mischievous characters, however, was a bit trickier than deciding upon a narrative for them to follow. "The hardest part is that our three leads don't speak English. Still, Pierre is wonderful at conveying what they're trying to say."

For Coffin, the Minions are the ultimate nod to his heroes of silent cinema. He explains: "When you look at the history of films, they start out as being totally mute with actors like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Those guys were the best storytellers ever, and it goes across generations. I showed my kids The Gold Rush, and they loved it. There are no words in it, obviously, but they were just hooked on the visuals. Everything was so timed and well-executed without any language. The Minions are all about that. They're this legacy of silent films, except that we stuck ridiculous words on them."

"This movie is not just for one audience," says Coffin "It's for a broad audience, but we tried to be witty about it, meaning that every time there is a joke, we try putting multiple levels on it. That's the magic of animation."

Biz readers can win a Minions Key Chain, a fun Minions Bob Bag, and a Despicable Me DVD by sending an email to az.oc.oidutsgnitirw@leinad

About Daniel Dercksen

Daniel Dercksen has been a contributor for Lifestyle since 2012. As the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio and a published film and theatre journalist of 40 years, teaching workshops in creative writing, playwriting and screenwriting throughout South Africa and internationally the past 22 years. Visit
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