So what’s the appeal of these little yellow Tic-Tac shaped, goggle-wearing, gibberish-speaking… things… that makes them so darn funny? They first popped-up by the hundred’s in 2010’s Despicable Me as henchmen (sorry, no girls!) to the evil super-villain, Felonious Gru, and were an instant hit. They repeated their success (along with purple evil minions) in Despicable Me 2 in 2013, and will be back in part three in 2017. But, in the meantime, how about their origin story!?
Through narration by Geoffrey Rush, we learn that these lovable, goofy little creatures have been around since Day One and have a single purpose: to serve an evil master. Good work if you can get it, I suppose. In a LOL opener, we see their humble beginnings of aiding a T-Rex, an Egyptian Pharaoh, Napoleon, Dracula, etc. with disastrous results. They can’t seem to hold on to a boss for very long, thanks to their gift for accidentally offing their masters. There’s hundreds of Minions (with all boys names) and they speak a mash-up of Spanish, French, Japanese, Russian, English, Italian, and Korean. Oh, and they LOVE bananas!
Anyway, after their last defeat and hiding in an ice cave for decades, we fast-forward to 1968 where Kevin (a born leader) decides to leave and find them all a master. He takes guitar loving and cynical Stuart and little Bob (who’s just a kid) on a trek that leads them to NYC, where they learn about the superbowl meeting of villains in Orlando, Florida. . . Villain-Con! Hitching a ride with a kooky bank-robbing family (Michael Keaton and Allison Janney voice the mom and dad), the guys reach the convention and its special guest, Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock).
This super-villainess needs a henchmen and, through a recruitment mix-up, Stuart, Kevin, and Bob (all voiced by director Pierre Coffin) are chosen. Flown to England and introduced to her super-inventor husband, Herb (Jon Hamm), she assigns the boys a task: steal the Queen’s (Jennifer Saunders) Royal Crown. . . or else! But, being the clumsy little Twinkies they are (and the writers having some fun), the boys botch the theft, but Bob manages to become King of England by accident! Scarlet is none too happy with this, as you can imagine, and wants the fellows dead. But Bob, ever the pleaser, decides to abdicate the Royal throne to her.
Meanwhile, all the Minions are on their way to help out, just as soon as they can figure out how to get to England. But they better hurry because, wouldn’t ya know it? The coronation ceremony to crown Scarlet queen is crashed by the boys (who didn’t see that one coming?). Her full wrath is unleashed as all her villain friends are after them in a crazy chase climax that is reminiscent of the original The Muppet Movie’s conclusion. There’s a happy ending of course and yes, don’t worry, 10-year-old Gru (Steve Carrell) does makes a cameo appearance.
A clever and funny script by Brian Lynch, who also wrote Hop and Puss in Boots, with face-paced direction by Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin (who has been directing the Despicable Me movies). Surprisingly, even though these little yellow pills speak in jumbled languages, you can still understand them and get what they’re saying. They’re wickedly funny, having strong individual personalities, and like Ted or Howard the Duck, no one cares that they’re only two-foot tall yellow walking goggle-wearing thingys!
The story is funny alone, but the whole movie is chucked full of one sight gag after another. There are some truly LOL moments here that not only the kiddies will love, but the grown-ups, too. I just loved the constant jibes at the English culture (oh-so calm, constant tea drinking, etc.), the whole ‘Bob becoming King’ sequence is a riot, and the Villain-Con (i.e. Comic-Con) has insiders jokes galore, if you’ve ever been to one. There are musical numbers sung in “Minion-ese” and a rockin’ 60’s soundtrack. You have to admit, these little guys are very personable and they make the movie not only for kids, but for parents as well. Look for quick Beatles Abbey Road reference; it’s great!
The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953)
Replace tiny goggle-wearing, banana-shaped minions with children doing the biding of a psychotic music lover, and you have a Dr. Suess nightmare come to life on screen! This is one creepy, disturbing musical for kids that has to be seen to be believed! I have and I love it!
Written by Theodore Geisel (that’s right, Dr. Suess) and Alan Scott, this is one very strange movie. AND it’s a musical, too! We start off with young Bart Collins (Tommy Rettig) who lives with his beautiful widowed mother, Heloise (Mary Healy). Bart hates his piano lessons and would rather be out playing baseball with the guys. The music he plays is from the Terwilliker Institute and it’s eerie founder, Dr. Terwilliker (Hans Conried). He laments his woes to the only one who’ll listen; the family plumber, August Zabladowski (Peter Lind Hayes).
Forced to play (the piano) instead of play (baseball), Bart zones-off into the surreal world of the Nazi-like Terwilliker Institute, and finds he’s a prisoner there, forced to play at a massive two-story, snaked-shaped piano that’ll hold him and 499 other boys (5000 fingers). Worse yet, Bart’s mother has become Terwilliker’s hypnotized assistant AND bride-to-be! Being a miscreant, Bart is locked away with Mr. Zabladowski, who was hired to install the institute’s lavatories, but thinks the doc’s a nutcase.
The two are given a guided tour of the facilities by Dr. T in hopes of dissuading them from their fool-hearty ideas. The tour includes (in song) the dungeon where an off-tempo drummer cries out for help as he is forced to endure a lifetime on-tempo “bong’s” inside a huge bass drum. Disturbing. Unbeknownst to the wacky Dr., the two have constructed a crude “noise-sucking” gizmo out of a Febreze-like bottle and a hearing-aid to foil Dr. T’s concert. The problem is, it’s “atomic” (explosive)!
At the climatic piano concert, Bart lets loose the noise-sucker, making Dr. T. fly into a rage when there’s no sound. The other kids riot, the concert is ruined, and Bart demands that his “parents” be released. But no sooner than he does that, his sound-sucker device explodes, bringing Bart out from his dream and back into reality. Naturally, his mother meets August and sparks fly (cue the wedding bells), while Bart nixes his piano lesson and takes off for the baseball field.
This movie did not do well at the box office. Fact is, people walked out after the fist 15 minutes because it was “surreal, disturbing; strong meat for young stomachs”. Even Giesel regarded this film as a “debaculous fiasco” and never even mentioned it in his bio. But I love it! You want weird and musically strange? I got yer weird and musically strange right here!
You’ve got to rent this (I own a copy) if only to see the great Hans Conried as Dr. T., who considered this to be his finest work ever. The sets are magnificent and startling surreal and twisted. The direction by Roy Rowland must’ve had fun with this, as the characters are straight from a Dr. Suess book come alive, and it’s all very, very, very odd. Oh, and the songs? They’re very catchy and weird with bizarre choreography that makes you stop eating your popcorn just to watch.