I thoroughly enjoyed Despicable Me when it hit theaters in 2010 and still recommend it to those looking for an amusing animated movie, but you know what? I barely remember what it’s about. Gru’s a villain and he develops a soft spot when he winds up taking care of three orphan girls, but the details of the narrative escape me and it’s all because of those adorable little Minions. But what's that about? Why are we so drawn to this little creatures? Here, let's explore...
The Pet Obsession
A compelling story and strong lead characters are still and will hopefully always be requirements, but the power of a supercute, nonhuman sidekick is undeniable. Any animal lover can understand. My family treats our dogs and cat like real people more than I care to admit, but it’s also probably safe to say that most pet owners get completely caught up in the fact that our pets are so innocent and lovable that they melt our hearts to the point that we’re incessantly compelled to shower them with love and affection.
Then, when you’re talking to your cat or dog, perhaps trying to explain why you have to leave them alone for an hour or why they can’t have a taste of your human food, you fantasize. Who knows what the little guys are really thinking when you bust out the vacuum and scare them half to death or insist on locking them out of the bathroom while you do your business, but that’s not going to stop you from assuming that they think the vacuum is an evil monster and that you’re breaking their hearts by forcing them to be alone for a minute.
Until some genius develops a collar that can translate what their barks and meows actually mean, it’s movies like Despicable Me and characters like the Minions that bridge the gap and fulfill that fantasy of having a more human connection to our pets.
Minions Are Man’s Best Friend
As revealed in the Minions movie synopsis, Minions have always been around and they’re always eager to serve the most despicable master they can find. In dog world, that makes them sound more like vicious pit bulls than sweet little lapdogs, but if you’ve seen the film, that’s clearly not the case. Minions may have a taste for being devious, but only innocently so. Once they latch on to a leader, they do his or her bidding whether it’s stealing a shrink ray, cleaning up the house, or being on standby should you need to make a quick getaway. The Minions themselves don’t have the bad intentions; they simply adopt their masters’.
In fact, deep down, those little yellow guys don’t have a mean-spirited bone in their bodies and Despicable Me 2 proves it. The only way Gru’s new enemy can get his Minions to break their loyalty to him and become truly ferocious is by injecting them with a serum that forces them to become that way. Otherwise, they’d stick by Gru’s side through thick, thin and even some foul tasting jams and jellies.
You Just Wanna Hug 'Em!
Just the other day at a Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 preview event, I learned that you can give any fruit or vegetable eyes and turn it into an enchantingly cute creature, but finding the ideal look and voice when developing an animated character can really make all the difference.
The Pixar team has this down pat. The monsters of Monsters, Inc. and University, the gang from Toy Story, Nemo and co. from Finding Nemo and loads more almost all rock vibrant colors and friendly features that make kids want Mikes, Buzz Lightyears and Marlins of their own.
The Despicable Me Minion look is prime for the toy market too and, in turn, while watching the film, evokes this gotta-have-it mentality. They’re pudgy little yellow figures with enormous eyes. Not only will a stuffed animal like that catch a parent’s eye, but a kid is going to be absolutely thrilled with it, too.
A Living, Breathing Minion… On-screen
But a cute looking toy only goes so far. If your big-screen little critter is going to pack an appeal well beyond the credits, they’ve got to have charming personalities to go along with it, and the Minions most certainly do.
Clearly Minions are capable of thinking, but they don’t seem to have the mental capacity of humans, making their behavior all the more innocent, childlike and endlessly amusing. Think about it. Picture an adult doing some mundane daily chore. Now pluck that adult out and replace him or her with a cute kid. It completely changes the appeal of the task, right? Minions have the same effect.
Two human henchmen waiting for Gru and Lucy to make their escape from the mall? Boring. Two little Minions manning the getaway car? Funny stuff. A team of firemen barging into the room when a fire ignites? Typical. A brigade of Minions putting out the flames? Hilarious. There’s even this completely random scene during which the Minions hold a huge party inside Gru’s factory for no apparent reason. Just before I could scowl at the nonsensical story addition, the sight of Minions clinking glasses and singing gibberish forces a smile to creep across my face.
Similarly, Minion speak also makes anything the Minions try to say immensely more entertaining than any line of human dialogue. And, even better, it’s full of surprises. Just when you think you’ve had enough of their babbling and it might start to get on your nerves, they have this outrageous version of a word you vaguely recognize and you can’t help but giggle.
Despicable Me vs. Minions
Gru isn’t a weak character by any means and his relationship with Margo, Agnes, and Edith is truly heartwarming, but like the first Despicable Me, in Despicable Me 2 the Minions completely steal the show. Even with a successfully established sense of urgency surrounding Gru’s mission to save the world, it’s easy to forget the big picture when the narrative cuts away from Gru and his human counterparts, and focuses on a Minion moment.
In fact, it almost seems as though directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud (who also voice the Minions) might have been testing the waters for the Minions movie. Unlike the first film where the Minions were well woven into Gru’s world, here they almost have a subplot of their own. It actually almost feels like the Minions are the commercial breaks to Gru’s main programming. The formatting doesn’t serve Despicable Me 2 very well as it distorts the pacing quite a bit, but the fact that you genuinely look forward to those little Minion getaways proves that the Minions movie is the way to go.
With a July 4 weekend opening, Despicable Me 2 is bound to match or surpass the first film’s $56.4 million start and go on to earn Gru a third film, but come December 19, 2014, Minions could prove to be the more lucrative stars. It’s been three years since Despicable Me hit theaters and the Minions have been present in pop culture ever since. With only about a year and half between Despicable Me 2 and Minions, Sandra Bullock leading the voice cast, and the film getting a Christmas time release, the Minions could really wind up taking over the world.
In conclusion: I want a Minion and I want one NOW!