How big have the Despicable Me Minions become in the three years since the Twinkie-shaped purveyors of mayhem debuted alongside their slave driver, the supervillain Gru? So large, they're getting their own spinoff flick, due to drop next June.
That's just enough time to eradicate the residue from the haphazard effort put forth by the folks behind Despicable Me 2, a walk-through sequel whose sole saving grace is those adorable goggle-eyed goofballs, the Minions.
Holding a flicker of a flame to the 2010 ingeniously-clever original, our followup finds a more-cuddly-than-crotchety Gru (Steve Carell) out of the stealing-the-moon game, focusing his wickedness on the production of a line of jams and jellies as he raises his darling adopted daughters – Margo, Edith and Agnes – in suburbia.
But Gru's quietude is put on hiatus with the arrival of Anti-Villain League agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig), her "AVL" in pursuit of a shadowy figure flying around in an supersized magnet ship, ripping a polar cap research lab clean out of the ground in the Bond-esque opening scene.
Forced to partner with Lucy to track down the contemptible culprit, Gru and his lady pal disguise themselves as bakery owners inside the local mall, hunting down the hiding-in-plain-sight scoundrel. Gru's dastardly instincts pointing in the direction of a Mexican restaurant proprietor, who may or may not be El Macho (Benjamin Bratt), a believed-to-be-dead muscle-head, capable of holding up armored cars — literally and figuratively.
And that's your unindustrious storyline aside from the Minions' variety show sprinkled throughout.
Popping up as if from another project, the lovable little imbeciles sing All 4 One songs ('member them?), bask on an island beach and close things out with their "Bee-do!" gibberish version of the Village People, each appearance delivering hearty guffaws.
Though when Stuart, Dave, Lance, Kevin and crew aren't on screen? Static. The fizzy fun of the original's rivalry between Gru and Vector is gone even with the entire creative team behind the first – directors and screenwriters – intact. Outside the mirthful Minions' antics, I can't recall an animated film of recent note that received so few snickers during a screening.
The Minions' decision to go solo next year is the smartest move since The Simpsons severed their relationship with Tracey Ullman. Hopefully Gru can get his edge back in the meantime.
Final Cut Score: 78%