One quiet evening last week, I emerged, bleary-eyed, from a dingy Holloway Odeon – I’d been to see the neo-western Slow West – to a sight I’d thought confined to the silver screen. Toddling along through the cinema foyer was a little ball of blue and yellow fuzz, squeaking as it went. Resplendent in a hooded minion onesie, strapped to a minion backpack and engulfed by a fluffy minion teddy, this beaming child was on cloud nine. It made my 90 minutes of pistol-whipping skulduggery look paltry in comparison.
Fast forward seven days and it’s my turn to board the Banana Express – albeit less ‘minionised’ in the wardrobe department.
Creator Pierre Coffin wastes no time with this Despicable Me spin-off, and the opening 30 minutes are stuffed full with as much slapstick tomfoolery and linguistic gibberish as there is flatulence in a fart gun.
We follow the original tribe of yellow blobs on their disastrous quest to find the most dastardly villain to serve. From pagan Egyptians to the unlucky Napoleon, many of history’s celebrities met their ends with a sudden “Bello!” and a quick “Poopaye!”
Eventually our three heroes – the imaginatively named Kevin, Stuart and Bob – find their femme fatale, the malevolent Scarlett Overkill, and monarchy-themed mania ensues in a quirkily realised London town.
The main plot devices come in fits and starts, as do the laughs. Occupying a bit part role in the original, the minions were used as a comic foil whenever the human-driven narrative slowed. Now in their own feature, their one-dimensional nature is exposed. That’s not to say they are any less funny, the gags just work better when the fuzzy, yellow tennis balls have a person-shaped wall to bounce off.
Coffin excels once more as the voice – can we call it a voice? – of the minions, and with the addition of a bit of French and Spanish lingo, even a sliver of sense can be snatched from the frenzied babble.
It’s a shame the same cannot be said for the directors’ decision to cast Sandra Bullock as Overkill, whose blandly-delivered character is lazily drawn and not a patch on Kristen Wiig’s Lucy from Despicable 2. Jennifer Saunders goes some way to making up for this misstep however, with a gloriously nutty cameo as the Queen (more Eddie Monsoon than Lizzie Windsor).
All bouncing bundles of bisque considered, there are more than enough titter points in this 90-minute blunder fest to make it enjoyable. And although the hideous backpack is quite out of the question, I may just nab myself a onesie…