MinionscoverGrade: B+/B
Entire family: Yes
2015, 91 min., Color
Rated PG for action and rude humor
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Featured audio: English Atmos Dolby TrueHD
Bonus features: B+
Includes: 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD
Amazon link

I can’t tell you how resistant my family was to seeing this film. From the previews it looked like nothing more than a cutesy money-driven sequel aimed at children young enough to want to run to the store to buy a plush Minion doll or grab a Minion onesie off the rack to wear to bed.

Turns out it is a cute film, sure to please the little ones. But Minions is also surprisingly clever, with enough allusions and smart one-liners to keep older children and adults amused as well. Instead of a sequel we get a creative and funny origin story that explains where the Minions came from and how they came to serve Gru (voiced by Steve Carell)—the villain from Despicable Me (2010) and Despicable Me 2 (2013).

Would you believe they’re prehistoric? That they evolved (barely)? And that their entire purpose for living is to serve the most despicable master they can find?

Minionsscreen1Good, because that’s the premise. After a series of hilarious historical background scenes, we get to the present day and see how the little yellow guys with limited language skills manage to tap into a secret TV channel announcing a villainous version of Comic-Con. Since the Minions seek a new villainous master, this comes as a revelation, and they head for the convention in Orlando, Fla., hoping to find just the right one.

Once there, like baby birds imprinting, they glom onto the deadly Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and her partner Herb (Jon Hamm). The last name will bring a smile to gamers’ faces, as it alludes to Overlord: Minions, a 2009 Nintendo DS game.

The voice actors really have a lot of fun with this film, and while Minions may not be as original or creative as Pixar’s Inside Out, it’s nearly as entertaining. Set in 1968, it features a lot of period gags. And while there comes a time toward the end of the second act where you begin to wonder whether the Minions are strong enough characters to carry a film, the third act pulls it all together.

Minionsscreen2Scarlet gives the Minions a test they need to pass, a Herculean task: to steal St. Edward’s Crown from the Tower of London. If they succeed, she will accept them as her very own minions. If they fail? It’s off with their heads. The stakes are high but it’s hard to take anything seriously when three Minions—Kevin, Bob, and Stuart—bumble their way across London. And when Bob pulls the Excalibur from the stone? Suddenly he is crowned ruler of England instead of Scarlet . . . and you didn’t want to make HER angry. Gru eventually makes an appearance, but for the most part it’s all about Kevin, Bob, and Stuart (voiced by co-director Pierre Coffin) and their encounter with would-be masters Scarlet and Herb.

Sight gags abound, so even children too young to get the verbal jokes will have plenty to laugh about. Movie fans will have flashbacks to any number of films as the three hitchhiking Minions are picked up by a family (Michael Keaton, Allison Janney) that turns out to be headed to Villain-Con themselves . . . as villains. It’s a fun origin film, and our family enjoyed it only a little less than the original and a lot more than the sequel.

This is the 3D combo pack, and the 3D version is a mixed bag. Children will love how often objects break the plane of the television monitor or how things like lava guns seem to be poking right at you. But the depth of field isn’t as good as Disney-Pixar’s recent release of Inside Out, and the lighting could be better. It’s fun to watch with the glasses on, but if you don’t already have 3D capability and are wondering whether to buy the 3D to prepare for the future or go with the standard Blu-ray, I’d have to say that I enjoyed the Blu-ray at least as much—maybe even more, because of the brightness factor.

As it turns out, Minions did better at the box office than either of the first two films—more than $1.1 billion worldwide, making it the second highest animated feature ever (behind Frozen). And for a bunch of little yellow guys, that’s a pretty big deal—whether in 3D or 2D.