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Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/8/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/5/2015
In my recent review for Ant-Man, I spoke of the power of clout, as it relates to Hollywood. In show-business, nothing succeeds like success and if you do well enough, you can often write you own ticket. Founded by animation producer Chris Meledandri, Illumination Entertainment hit paydirt with its 2010 release Despicable Me and its 2013sequel (along with some lesser performing films in there as well). With the international appeal of Gru, Illumination was able to move forward with their next project, the spin-off Minions. Would audiences be ready to accept the little yellow guys on their own?
Minions opens with a (vague) history of the Minions (which is narrated by Geoffrey Rush), small yellow creatures who live to serve evil masters. As they move through history, the Minions graduate from dinosaurs to cavemen to historical figures. After enraging their last master, the Minions move to a frozen tundra and settle for living in a cave. However, having no purpose doesn't sit well with the Minions and they soon grow despondent. So, Kevin, Stuart and Bob (all voiced by Pierre Coffin) set out to find a new master. Crossing oceans and continents, they find themselves in New York City. There, they learn of Villain-Con, a gathering of evil-doers. They hitch a ride (with an unusual family) and make their way to the convention, where they meet Scarlet Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock), the world's first female supervillain. The three Minions earn the right to work for Scarlet and journey with her to England. But, they will soon learn a valuable lesson: Villains can't be trusted.
Given the success of the Despicable Me, it's not surprising that a Minions-only movie exists. It's also probably not surprising that the movie made over $1 billion worldwide. But, once you see the movie, what is surprising is just how weird it is. I earlier spoke of clout and power and that it is clearly on display here. I don't think that Illumination could have gotten this script past any studio without the amount of money which they'd already amassed.
For the sake of argument, let's assume that the movie is primarily intended for children. In and of itself, the fact that the bulk of the story takes place in the 1960s isn't all that strange. But, the doesn't just use the 60s as a setting -- It indulges in the time period and the film is littered with pop cultural and political references from the time. To put it mildly, 90% of this is going to soar over the heads of the kids in the audience. So, can we assume that these jokes and touchstones were meant for the adults in the audience? I suppose, but recognizing something and finding it clever or entertaining are two different things. Yes, I'm familiar with Bewitched and Jimi Hendrix, but alluding to them didn't give the movie any deeper meaning.
Once we move beyond the 60s references, we then get to the second act of the movie, where the story really goes off of the rails. I won't spoil the movie for those who haven't seen it, but a fairly straight-forward heist plot gets really strange and only proceeds to get stranger from there. Kudos to Writer Brian Lynch for taking the script in some surprising directions, but when an animated film is pushing the limits of credibility, then something has gone wrong. Perhaps this was mean to distract us from the fact that the movie is incredibly vague. We would assume that the film is going to explain the origin of the Minions, but it doesn't explain anything. We don't learn where they came from, why they wear goggles, why some have one eye and some have two, or why they feel that they must serve a villainous master. I'm sure that I'm like most people who assumed that Gru had created the Minions. After seeing Minions, I now know less.
So, the movie is a complete disaster, right? No. And it's all because of the charm of the Minions. Is an entire movie of Minions a bit too much. Yes. There's no doubt that they work better as cute supporting characters in the Despicable Me movies. But, there are some truly funny moments here and one can't help but find the Minions endearing with their odd language (which sounds like bits and pieces of Spanish and French) and their misunderstanding of our world. Even as I was marveling at how truly odd Minions is, I was laughing out loud. Will anyone enjoy the entire movie? I highly doubt it, but it's certainly worth checking out, as the movie's desire to be different will win you over at some point.
Minions really gets way out there when it launches into a Minions-language version of a 60s classic song on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The level of detail is second-to-none and the depth, even in this 2D version, is notable. The colors look fantastic and the image is never overly dark or bright. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We are treated to nicely detailed stereo and surround effects which show off individual noises and highlight audio coming from off-screen to the left and right and to the rear. The subwoofer effects are strong and deep, but never overpower the dialogue. This set also contains a Blu-ray 3D. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an MVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 21/12 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source materials. To be honest, I was disappointed with the 3D effects here. The image simply isn't very deep and some shots look no different from the 2D version found on the Blu-ray Disc. There is some depth here, but the foreground and background are simply too "close". The colors look good and the picture is never dark. The level of detail is good. The Disc carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 640 kbps.
The Minions Blu-ray Disc contains a small assortment of extras. We get one DELETED SCENE which runs about 29 seconds, and only offers additional footage from a scene which is already in the movie. "Around the World Interactive Map" allows the viewer to choose from 15 different locations around the world, which are seen in the film, and then view very brief segments which illustrate how this location tied into the movie through interviews with the filmmakers or nuggets like storyboards. "Behind the Goggles - The Illumination Story of The Minions" is another interactive feature which allows the viewer to choose from six "departments" at Illumination Entertainment and learn about various elements of the film's production, from the music to the script to concept art. This includes brief videos which offer comments from the creative team. "Jingle Bells Minion Style" (2 minutes) is exactly what you think it is. The big selling point of the Blu-ray Disc are the three "Mini-Movies" included here. "Cro Minion" (4 minutes), "Competition" (4 minutes), and "Binky Nelson Unpacified" (5 minutes) offer additional adventures of the Minions and other characters from the movie. I think that some will be disappointed that all three don't focus on the Minions.
Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long