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‘Minions’ delivers more humor than its given credit for

My favorite character in “Minions” isn’t Scarlet Overkill, the evil supervillain with Sandra Bullock’s voice. (“There’s a new bad man in town and that bad man is a woman.”) It isn’t her husband Herb either, whose voice comes from Jon Hamm. Nor is it Marge or Walter Nelson, the crazily cheerful bank robbers who pick up three hitchhiking banana-colored minions on the side of the highway. They’re voiced by Allison Janney and Michael Keaton.

My favorite is Jennifer Saunders as Queen Elizabeth II.

It’s like this: three brave little minions have gone out in search of the most despicable creature in the known universe. They’ve done this, you should know, because it’s in their nature and their history. It’s their lot in life as a yellow tribe wearing denim to find that evil master and serve it blindly and faithfully.

A Tyrannosaurus Rex? Good choice in the Jurassic era but as Geoffrey Rush, the narrator, tells us, finding a master to serve is easier for them than keeping one. The minions, as a tribe, are such morons that in their communal efforts to serve villainy, they’ll invariably cause its destruction.

It’s the joke of the “Despicable Me” series, right?

This, after all, is a tribe of yellow guys who wear underwater goggles, speak gibberish, and who, as we see here, advised an early caveman to fight off a hungry bear with a fly swatter, not a club.

Three of the intrepid but not-very-bright minions have gone in search of an evil master to serve. One of the most likely candidates turns out to be Scarlet Overkill, a woman who will do anything to snatch the crown right off the head of Queen Elizabeth. “Steal me the crown,” she bellows, “and all your dreams come true.”

Somehow, it happens. It’s an animated cartoon, you know? Scarlet then is just about to become Queen of England. Fancy-shmancy coronation – Westminster Abbey, all that.

Meanwhile, the deposed Queen is quaffing a pint down at the Pig’s Spleen Pub and, in a broad cockney accent, telling everyone around her that she used to be a big deal back in the old days when she still had her crown.

By the time the movie’s ending shows up, a reconstituted Liz is passing around party favors to the minions like the wizard at the end of “The Wizard of Oz,” speaking in her naturally correct upper-class accent and, yes, snorting when she laughs.

That snort was more than enough for me.

You should know, that is the vocal art of Jennifer Saunders of TV’s trans-Atlantic cult favorite “Absolutely Fabulous.”

I don’t know about you, but any movie about a beer-swilling Queen Elizabeth whose natural accent at the Pig’s Spleen Pub is the same as Liza Doolittle’s and who snorts when she laughs is my kind of kid’s cartoon.

Strictly speaking, “Minions” is a prequel to “Despicable Me,” where the tribe of little yellow minions was first introduced to the indubitably despicable Steve Carell. Remember, it is their life’s mission to serve evil’s supreme master, whoever that may be.

I found the script by Kevin Lynch here a lot funnier than it has been given credit for. For instance, the three minions, bravely looking for an incomparably evil master to serve, go in their search to the Villain-Com convention being held in Orlando, Fla.

But then, don’t ask this movie how yellow creatures made the transition from prehistoric times to 1968 New York with full working knowledge of what a TV is and how to use a remote control device.

It turns out, if you’re interested, they just love Jim Lange and “The Dating Game.”

I had a pretty good time at “Minions.” So did the little ones. As for the late-’60s soundtrack, I ask you this – how many movie soundtracks do you know that have both the Beatles and the Stones on them, along with the Kinks, the Doors, the Who and Jimi Hendrix?

A final word of advice: Leave the littlest ones home. One poor little thing at the screening could only have been 2 at most and was just too young to accept the mayhem and the idea of evil and badness as a joke. She had to be led out of the theater wailing.

Bless all the 2-year-olds out there, but as precious and adorable as they all are, they’re really not ready for movie theaters yet. They just need a bit more time.



3 stars

With the voices of: Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Saunders, Allison Janney

Director: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda

Running time: 91 minutes

Rating: PG for cartoon violence and nastiness.

The Lowdown: Three brave explorers from the tribe of Minions try to find the most despicable creature in the universe to serve.

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