Minions: Adorable animated spinoff sputters late

Absolutely no one should be surprised by now that little yellow lemming-like creatures have taken the Hollywood landscape by storm.

Minions are everywhere. From lunchboxes to every other commercial it seems like, to their first feature length animated adventures, the henchmen (is it right to call genderless characters men?) from the innovative “Despicable Me” franchise have rightfully taken center stage with “Minions,” a 95-minute prequel to the events of the original “Despicable Me.”

Because there’s likely an infinite number of Minions out there in the animated universe, directors Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin (who also voices all the Minions) smartly chose to focus viewers on three distinct Minions — fearless leader Kevin, banana-obsessed future rock star Stuart, and diminutive, yet enthusiastic, Bob.

This allows the film to feel more grounded and comprehensible to viewers, especially those new to the franchise. First-time viewers won’t feel especially lost, since there’s little “Despicable Me” knowledge required in order to enjoy the film at a cursory level.

Each of the three Minion leads is given adequate character development (by animated children’s film standards) both with the animated and story choices, and through the smart narration of veteran thespian Geoffrey Rush, most recently famous for his work opposite Colin Firth in the Academy Award winner “The King’s Speech.”

Illumination Entertainment, the studio behind “Minions,” does overcome the biggest obstacle to the film’s success — the relative unintelligibility of the Minions themselves.

There’s almost no deciphering what exactly is being said for much of the movie — especially in moments when viewers are left with only Kevin, Stuart and Bob in conversation — but there’s just enough English thrown in their garbled language, which may include some French, Spanish and other European languages to make sense of things.

Plot-wise, “Minions” doesn’t break any new ground as the trio attempts to find the perfect villain or villainess to serve in the years prior to their life with Gru in “Despicable Me.” Rush’s narration over the cursory, yet hysterical introduction to the film helps show the lemming-like Minions’ run through a number of sub-par evildoers, from a Tyrannosaurus rex to Dracula and so on.

It isn’t until the Minions stumble upon the aptly-named “Villain Con” and a date with the world’s top villain, Scarlet Overkill (voiced by a surprisingly game bad girl in Sandra Bullock), that things really start to take off. While Bullock is more than capable in her role, Jon Hamm of “Mad Men” isn’t really a fit as Overkill’s love interest/weapons supplier, going for the over-the-top reading of every line.

Unfortunately for viewers, the cuteness of everyone’s favorite henchmen starts to fade away during the final act and the last 15 minutes of the 95-minute running time will make “Minions” feel much longer than it actually is. As a whole, the film starts to peter out toward the end, though a fun and nostalgic Minions singalong to “Revolution” by the Beatles is a refreshing fun end scene following the majority of the credits.

While not a perfect film, “Minions” is definitely fun for the whole family and will be a relatively clean movie for parents to take their children to (perhaps even several times) over the course of July, though the equally impressive “Inside Out” will likely stick around at least another week to give families an option if the “Despicable Me” off-shoot continues to pack out theaters.

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