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‘Minions’ of ‘Despicable Me’ praised as ‘slapstick comedy geniuses’

LOS ANGELES — The Shrine Auditorium was awash in a sea of “bello” yellow at Saturday’s Los Angeles premiere of “Minions,” where guests turned up in their best banana-hued duds to fete the giddily-anticipated prequel to Universal Pictures’ “Despicable Me” franchise.

Cast members Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm and Allison Janney joined “Minions” directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda and screenwriter Brian Lynch at the afternoon event, where kids and families were treated to an outdoor carnival complete with a Ferris wheel, super slide, and custom Minion T-shirt stations, along with a bevy of Minion-themed balloons, baubles and edibles in the way of marshmallows, Rice Krispy treats and yellow-and-blue macaroons. Costumed Minions circled the crowd, amusing pint-sized fans with their dopey antics and Esperanto-like gibberish.

Bullock was the hit of the yellow carpet, wearing Minion-inspired stiletto heels, designed by Rupert Sanderson. (The court shoes are part of the Minions Bello Yellow Collection, featuring many other designers, and are available for ?525 at Selfridges.)

(Sandra Bullock in Rupert Sanderson limited edition Minions court shoes. Photos by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

“These guys have a global character of being not the most sufficient guys in the world,” said Coffin of the minions, specifically Kevin, Stuart and Bob, who, in this latest installment, are pitted against Bullock’s megalomaniacal supervillian, Scarlet Overkill, as she plots to overthrow Queen Elizabeth II in late 1960s England. “They’re funny, they’re so stupid, that’s the base of it, but they are horribly endearing and they are harmless — except when it comes to those they are supposed to be serving.”

Chris Meledandri, head of Illumination Entertainment, called the decision to set the movie during the era of the British invasion — the script is rife with references to the Beatles and Andy Warhol — “a great opportunity in terms of the fun that (the filmmakers) could have.”

“From a directorial standpoint, Pierre and Kyle were also looking at movies from that period,” said Meledandri, “and you’ll look and see there are filmmaking homages as well in the film. For example, there’s never been a movie in animation that’s been lit the way this movie has been lit, which pays homage to the look of 1960’s movies.”

Having played iconic Don Draper in “Mad Men” for seven seasons, Hamm, who voices Overkill’s tragically groovy husband, Herb, is well-versed in the landscape of late 1960s pop culture, an aspect that made him especially appreciate the script.

“There are so many touchstones in the movie that we know, whether it’s the Beatles or Abbey Road or Hendrix,” said Hamm. “So I think that was the fun of it all and, obviously, from a timeline perspective where we’re telling the story at a point just before the minions meet Gru, it just worked out well.”

Hamm also called the minions — incorrigibly prone to pratfalls, silly faces and other clownish exploits — “slapstick comedy geniuses.”

“What Pierre has done with those guys is really, really impressive,” he said.

At the core, said Meledandri, “Minions” is a tribute to the great physical comedy geniuses of our time.

“Above all else, this movie is a big, fun, silly cartoon and in creating that it comes from an underlying love of animation and also it comes from a love of physical comedy,” he said. “When you look at the film what you’re actually seeing — in addition to Sandra Bullocks’s character — is a film that stars three characters who speak a language that you don’t literally understand and where does that put you? It puts you in a terrain of physical performance. (Pierre) is both a lover of and a student of the great silent comedians and in the film we see the influence of everybody from Charlie Chaplin to Peter Sellers, and what that amounts to is a film that aspires to entertain audiences and make them laugh.”

“Minions” opens July 10.

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