[photo: Universal Pictures]

Animated comedies usually have great side characters who steal the scenes, such as Edna in The Incredibles, the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin and Dory in Finding Nemo . The Minions from Despicable Me (1 & 2) are definitely in the same ballpark, but there is a reason that these characters never take center stage. Minions is a prime example of how difficult it is for projects like this to be successful on their own.

The movie shows the evolution of the Minions. From the time they emerge from the primordial ooze, they have one goal in mind — to find something or someone evil enough to serve as henchmen. They go through the ages, working for everyone from a T-rex, a Pharaoh and even Napoleon. But it’s not until they reach swinging London in the 1960’s that they meet Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and begin to truly become the Minions they were always meant to be.

Minions is a lot of fun, but compared to the two films that preceded it, it is scattershot at best, and annoying at worst. The Minions have a very specific language, which is hilarious in small doses, but quickly becomes tiresome after an hour or so. And sadly the voice-over actors seem to be phoning it in. Bullock and Jon Ham, as Scarlett’s nebbish husband, don’t exactly breathe life into their roles. The only saving grace is Absolutely Fabulous star Jennifer Saunders as the Queen of England, who is vibrant and hilarious.

As far as “sequels” go (prequels, whatever, sorry for the semantics) this one is clearly just a money grab. The only franchise that might be more obvious about it would be the two unnecessary Hobbit films after the first one. It is apparent from the rampant merchandising and advertising that has saturated the media for the last couple of weeks that Universal Pictures had an idea about the C+ movie they had on their hands.

Still, it’s sure to crush it at the box office opening weekend, and months from now thousands of unfortunate parents will be forced to throw down $20 on a Blu-ray copy that they can put on endless repeat in the living room. Both of those factors are sure to guarantee a sequel, which will no doubt be just as uninspired and over hyped as this offering. Take the kids if you must, as all parents make sacrifices for their young ones. Just know that they will forget it probably just as fast as you try to.