Hello, Spongey here.
It’s time for another Movie Battle! This is a series where I compare two movies of similar quality to see which one I like more. I liked how the Princess and the Frog/Tangled turned out so I will do more.
I promise I’ll throw in Live Action at some point but for now, more animation. This time it’s Dreamworks Vs Illumination, oh boy. But first, some backstory. One thing Studios like do is take a Supporting character from a work and give them the spotlight in their own series or movie.
This is usually a bad idea for obvious reasons. We like those characters because they are supporting so giving them the spotlight sometimes ruins the point of the character. It can work sometimes but for every Finding Dory there’s a Cars 2, or Planet Sheen.
And within the past few years, two sets of characters from hit franchises got their own films that are similar in terms of how they approach things but different with how they did. First, The Penguins of Madagascar from well…the Madagascar series got the treatment in 2014.
I reviewed the movies so you know that I really like them and feel they were the highlights with how they work like a spy team. They got a Nicktoon and I was personally fan. I thought it was an example of this kind of thing done right with how it fleshed them out further and created some fun episodes.
Adding King Julien helped, but I haven’t seen his show so don’t ask how I feel yet. It’s worth nothing the show is set on an alternate continuity from the movies (Word of God said so) which is why the film ignores and it starts where the 3rd film left off.
The movie came in a bit late hence why it was sadly another Box Office Disappointment for Dreamworks. But The Boss Baby was a hit, life’s not fair. On the bright side, it got Decent reviews. (Even if the RT consensus is oddly kinda negative despite the 72 score. Same happened in reverse recently wit Cars 3. Proof RT is bullcrap).
In the other corner, we have the Minions from the Despicable Me Franchise and their film from just a year later. I’m a bit more mixed in these characters. They can be fun with their simple comedy ways but aren’t the most interesting and worked better in the first DM film than some other places.
The Critical reaction was more mixed for this one…only this time the RT Consensus is closer to positive with the Score being a Rotten 56. Did I mention RT is Garbage? But in contrast, this film was a bit more of a hit. How?
It grossed over a billion dollars. It’s the 2nd highest grossing animated film of ALL TIME. (Even these guys couldn’t topple Frozen). Yeah. Now, I was an odd positron going into both films. With the first, I was a fan of the characters but since the show was over (minus the episodes Nick held on too because…Nick) so I wasn’t as hyped as I would be if it was the hype of their popularity.
The Minions Movie was made at a time when I was getting sick of them due to how…out of hand the usage of them had gotten. You know why, the ads, the products, the awful Facebook posts. I didn’t even like the idea of the film frankly so I was more mixed going on. However, in both cases I tried to enjoy as best as I could and since they are appearing on here, I find both to have similar good qualities.
I won’t reveal my full thoughts on them as a whole until we get to the big categories, as this case is more complicated then the previous Movie Battle. Both films focus more on Comedy involving their leads than a real story, so it makes perfect sense compare them.
And yes, the upcoming DM 3 made me want to do this now. I promise the next one won’t be a tie in like this. After watching both twice now, so it’s time to take a deeper look at them than most to see which one is did the better job at giving some these side characters the spotlight.
Which was more enjoyable? Time to take a look, putting away all biases and give them each a fair shot. It’s gonna be a fun one.
This, is Penguins of Madagascar Vs Minions
I normally won’t compare animation in these because of how a lot of it comes to personal preference but for one, I needed an extra category and 2nd, both sum up how both studios handle animation in their films.
Now, both films are just keeping the style from their franchises so I can’t really praise or bash either too much for just keeping what they felt worked. But there are minor differences here and there which is why I’ll go into detail.
Both are of course very cartoon, especially Penguins. The designs are done in a way to fit the goofy tone and they move very quickly. The Madagascar made more of an attempt to look pretty as they went on but this dials it back a bit to focus more on the quick movements.
There are nice locations, fun action sequences and Dave the Octopus is really cool with his moments, especially in his human disguise. It doesn’t look as good as Madgascar 3 but it has a nice cartoon-y-ness to it while still being appealing. That’s what Dreamworks mostly is able to do especially in this series.
Illuminations has been criticized pretty heavily for the look of it’s films and I can see why. Minions technically is really nice looking good. The character animation is pretty comptent and the locations are well crafted and it’s clear a lot effort goes into the animation itself.
But the actual look of the film is kind of dull. The locations are just there. We have an ice cave, a palace and a dungeon where the Minions almost get hanged. …More on that later. It’s all technically well done but nothing truly pops out.
Illumination’s focus as usually been on stuff like the characters themselves and on things like the technology they use, it’s especially noticeable in these movies and Secret Life of Pets on the character front.
That’s fine and the main Minions look distint enough but the rest don’t. Seriously, they have 3 default designs for them and that’s it. When you look at a crowd, you can’t tell them apart unless they are wearing something different which is cheating.
Given the backstory of them (oh, we’ll get to that too) it makes no sense for only like 3 varitions of the same design to exist. The humans have the weird thing where they all look “quirky” with big noses even the ones that are meant to be normal. Illumination always does this, even on the Owner in Pets who isn’t weird at all.
It works okay here for someone like Scarlett I suppose but not the background humans. Now, none of this really matters as the animators did a fine job but it’s minor things like this that make the film blend into the background visually.
Penguins looks simpler than some of it’s predecessor yes but the character animation and how things move makes it stand out and makes you remember it. There’s plenty of fast quick movement in Minions but there’s as much in terms of good timing with it, it’s just stuff happening quickly.
I’m not gonna act like Penguins is artistic by any means and Minions is technically well made but in terms of overall design and movement, this style works a lot better in Penguins and just leaves more an impression.
At first it was a tough call, but after looking deeper into it, I’m picking Penguins. I don’t want be too hard on Minions are like I said, it’s more of Illumination’s problem then that exact movie but Penguins also keeps a style that the studio established so there you go.
WINNER: Penguins of Madagascar
BEST SUPPORTING CHARACTERS:
These films are literally about supporting characters but even these writers know they need their own supporting cast bounce off off and both created some kind of sort of interesting original characters.
Penguins of Madagascar has the North Wind and the villain, and that’s pretty much. North Wind is this other spy team that helps the penguins, doesn’t like them but has to team up eventually as the Penguins prove to be better.
They’re there. They exist to do what I just said and they can get some amusing moments, especially Bendict Cumberbatch but for the most part, they just kind of exist. One is a nice Polar bear, one is Ken Jeong (Wait, Ken Jeong….Nice Polar Bear….AAAAAAAAA FLASHBACKS), and one gets crushed on by Klowaski.
They do their job but don’t leave too much of an impression. The villain Debbie-i mean Dave though, is decently memorable. As I said, his animation is pretty cool and he’s another one of though highly comedic and fun villains.
He also has a decent backstory which isn’t that deep but at least gives him some kind of depth and his “Arc” ends in a good way since it has a decent joke that comes with it. He’s not one of my favorite Dreamworks Villains or anything but he is the best character in the movie.
Minions is interesting with how the supporting characters get almost as focus while still being upstaged sometimes, at least on a writing level. Of course there’s Scarlett Overkill and her husband Herb. She’s very over the top and as a result, actually pretty entertaining.
Herb is just kind of there but I like their weird relationship where they actually do seem to love each other. Scarlett is a bit odd on a writing level though. She’s given a motivation for why she wants to do all this but the writers have trouble balance her implied good moments and her evil-ness.
I get that she’s supposed to be evil (we see that when she tells the Minions to get the crown or she’ll pretty much kill them) but some nice moments work almost too well which makes it a bit jarring when she is just full on evil by the end.
But then she ends on an unironic nice moment which is just weird given everything that came before. Penguins did the same thing but added a joke onto it, as I said, which made it work. Still, I can still enjoy her.
As far as other characters go, the only ones of note would be this family that the Minions get a ride from. The family turns out to be an evil family on their way to Evil Con as well. And they are the best thing about the movie.
Seriously, the joke where they are revealed to be evil was the biggest laugh I got because I actually didn’t see it coming. And besides that, I like how nice they are to the Minions and I’m amused by one of the evil family members being voiced by Charlene Doofenshmirtz herself.
And of course after Evil Con, we never see them again. If we do, it’s telling that I forgot. As much as I like them, I kind of wish the whole movie about them rather than Scarlett, or hell even the Minions.
It would be like The Incredibles, except everyone is Syndrome! Make it happen!
Both films happen to have cameos from a character in their franchise. In Penguins it’s King Julian and Mort, in a post credits scene that is amusing enough. Kind of odd Julien has his VA from the TV Show while everyone has their movie actor.
Minions has Gru, in my favorite part of the whole movie. I like exactly how and why he pops up and it was an unexpected surprised, mostly because it wasn’t spoiled in the trailer like everything else. (Well, it was in the Honest Trailer that I foolishly watched before seeing the movie but whatever).
I just wish they maybe built up to him on a story level. Yeah, it’s about finding a master but Gru literally just appears out of nowhere, with no explanation of why he’s there other than we need the actual best part of the franchise in this.
I wish he was in more of it, maybe explore how the Minions found him and stuff. Maybe the sequel (Ugggggh) will explore it but whatever. Either way, Gru’s part was pretty cool on it’s own.
So which is better? Hmmm…I’m actually picking Minions. The supporting cast is fine and has less writing issues but they don’t leave a big impact besides Dave. Minions has some more memorable side characters who have their writing issues but are at least fun to watch and the fact that I wanted more of some shows that they did something right.
It is close call as one has supporting players that are competent but not that memorable and the other has some that are memorable and funny but either aren’t written that well or aren’t in it enough.
But in terms of being enjoyable and leaving some impact to an extent, I’ll pick Minions if only for that family. They aren’t in it a lot but they were unexpected and funny, which is always a good thing.
Close call, but I pick the one I simply enjoy a tad more in this case. So there you go.
Okay, I normally would put this last. But the thing is, both movies focus more on the humor and the leads than the story, which is totally fine. But that means there’s no point in covering it last so, here we go.
I’ve got a lot to say on both fronts because of how they approach. However, I will not talk about the writing in regards to the leads and/or their development. Only in terms of the stoy itself, got it?
Okay, first Penguins as there is shockingly little to say on it’s own. The actual story is pretty simple. Dave wants to make Penguins ugly because of his backstory and the Penguins team up with the North Wind to do so and action and hilarity ensues.
This film mostly focuses on the action and the arc it has with Skipper and Private I’ll say more about later. As a result, the story can seem kind of weak as there isn’t a whole to it and not much if amazingly memorable.
But it is effective as at least the action is fun and we do get clear arcs for some characters, with motivations. As goofy as it is, at least remembered to throw in that. That can be a bad thing for some, as the fact that it has elements makes the fact that the story is just “eh” stand out more.
But at the same time, they do wisely keep it simple and nothing is too confusing or distracting. The best part of the movie in terms would actually be the opening.
It starts with their backstory with them meeting as kids, as we establish that Skipper is unhappy with the conformity going around and they all try to get this egg in danger, that turns out to be Private. It does a very good job of establishing the tone with the humor of action, as well as the characters and why they do what they do.
The stuff after it cuts to the present is pretty good, but once Arctic Wind shows up, it becomes a tad more hit or miss. Still enjoyable but not quite as much. The problem with being simple is that it does drag in the mid section, although it perks up again in the climax.
As for Minions, the story is similarly simple. The Minions wanted a master and find one in Scarlett Overkill who wants them to get this crown. That in itself is fine. The problem I have is that it often gets distracted.
A lot of the movie is less about moving plot, and more about the Minions doing…stuff. Some of it at the start is fine to establish who they are but the part where they walk around a city goes on forever and there’s a lot of parts like that.
But the odd thing about the story is that it has flat out problems with logic in some parts. I shouldn’t be thinking the logic of a silly comedy like this. Bob becomes King of England after a crazy chase scene, because he…pulled the sword from the stone.
Yes, it happened not only be real, but right in the open has no one has tried to pull it before now I guess and the Queen of England is just ready to give the crown to this little guy because he pulled a sword.
It makes no sense and the best part is that this just an excuse for more jokes with the Minoans doing stuff. It does give Scarlett an easy way to get power after she betrays them again. Speaking of, she betrays them again so fast that it’s almost like her reversing the previous turn was pointless.
Yeah, see what I mean? Despite it being simple, it still manages to have these writing problems. You’ll see later if the humor makes up for it, but on it’s own the writing is not that good.
There are some good ideas, I like that it’s set in the 60’s as it sets it apart from other kid’s movies and it gives the movie a decent Soundtrack. Granted, it doesn’t do much with the 60’s setting aside from aesthetic things but ah well.
And as I said, Gru’s cameo was neat, as was that family.
(Oh, and despite both films being short, Minions feels the need to have more mid credits scenes than Guardians 2 and a post credits with the cast dancing that goes on FOREVER. I mean, are you that desperate to keep me here?!)
But overall, the writing is kind of weak. The simple story is fine but it gets sidetracked sometimes with odd plot holes and a lot is just Minions doing things.
Penguins of Madagascar keeps itself simple and manages to actually tell a story. It is mostly just a big silly cartoon but it at least tries to have a story. Minions similarly keeps itself simple but doesn’t offer a whole lot in terms of the actual story and keeps itself distracted a bit too much.
The story isn’t important in either but I think Penguins did a better job of balancing the simple story with the Comedy than Minions which doesn’t quite get it right, most of the time.
At first glance it seems both are about the same in terms of how they handle the script but when I watched them both twice now and anazle them, it clear Penguins handles the writing better by being more focused and having at least an attempt at depth.
So yeah, there you go.
WINNER: Penguins of Penguins of Madagascar
And finally, the element both films favor other the script:
Since these films are titled after their leads and are Comedies, we’ll do this last as well as both in one go since there’s not a ton to say about the humor itself.
Penguins of Madagascar has what you’d expect from Madagascar, including slap tack and wordplay. The wordplay humor is honestly the best humor in the film as even when it’s cheesy, it is amusing.
Most of the characters get some good lines and there are some fun interactions, even with the less interesting characters. Nothing is quite hilarious but there is a steady stream of decent jokes.
There’s a running gag involving actor’s names that is way funnier than it should have been, especially after Escape From Planet Earth tried a similar gag. My faovirte joke was the fact the Penguins left Alex and his crew because….they were sick of Afro Circus.
Yes, really. That freaking killed me.
The biggest flaw in the humor is just a lack of it in some parts. Sometimes the laughs dry up which is sad as sometimes there’s a good stream of them.
Till, the humor does work and it is what makes the film work, mostly
The humor in Minions is of course a lot more slapstick based, being as silly and over the top as possible. It works sometimes like with certain characters I mentioned, and even the Minions can have their moment, mostly with how some people bounce off time.
However, since it so much silly-ness and spends a lot of time just doing stuff, the humor can get really old really fast. There’s only so many times you can see the Minions just…do stuff before it gets tiring.
I can see some finding it funny but some of it just felt like noise to me. Certain other problems in terms of writing don’t quite help either as the humor being tiring plus the writing being off doesn’t make for the best viewing experience.
There’s one odd element to the humor some like and some don’t: There’s some dark jokes in it. And by that I mean we get a montage of the Minions causing the deaths of their masters. Yes, really.
I’m all for dark humor/moments in kids movies…but it felt so off here. The humor is so silly and safe most of the time that it just feels jarring in a bad way. Plus, how do we root for characters who cause so many casualties? Keep in mind, only some were evil and for all we know, this version of Dracula is nice as the one in Hotel Transylvania! (Speaking of, how are do the Minions not know that sunlight is bad for vampires?).
(On another side note, another dark joke involves Herb trying to hang the Minoans. Yes really. And it fails due to their shape. YOU CAN[‘T KILL THE MINIONS)
So yeah, in terms of humor, it’s mostly harmless but also mostly shallow. Now onto the leads we’ve come to see. First, let’s compare the origins. For the Penguins it’s simple. They grew up in the Arctic, became a spy team and eventually get to New York which the rest is history.
Nothing too complicated. My only question is, if they left Antarctica because Skipper didn’t like the conformity, why did they want to go there in the first movie? But that’s overlookable.
The Minions are meant to be a different species entirely which was part of the fun of them, as you have no idea what they really are. But ignoring the fact that the first Despicable Me implied Gru created them, the backstory this movie reveals makes no sense.
Okay, so Minions existed long before humans and I guess are immortal? I mean, are the minions we see early on the same as the ones in the cave that the main trio leaves behind? Did those earlier Minions die with new Minions coming like how how all over species work ?
Infact, do Minions…reproduce? Are there female Minions? Do they even have genders? ARE THE MINIONS IMMORTAL?!
I know this doesn’t matter a whole lot but if you can’t buy into the explanation of the origin of the main characters, it kind of takes you of the movie. The Minions are oddly complicated in this.
But now onto the leads themselves. The Penguins aren’t too deep in general but perhaps there could have been more to them. The show did a good job of fleshing them out but there isn’t as much in the movie.
But there’s at least something. Let’s go over and see what I can tell you about them, only going off this movie.
Skipper: He’s the leader and he doesn’t like just following the crowd. He has a bit an ego sometimes and he really likes Private but sometimes underestimates him because he’s cute. He learns to give Private more chances to be awesome.
Private: He’s cute and isn’t always respected because of it. But it turns out he can help out a lot, even with his cute looks.
Klowaski: He’s the brains, and has a tendency to be brutality honest which can make him seem a bit careless sometimes.
Rico: He throws up stuff.
Yeah, not a ton of depth but you can get some sort of personalty out of each which I like The Skipper/Private arc is decent. It’s nothing we’ve never seen before but leads to some nice moments. Again, nothing groundbreaking but it has it’s heartwarming momenta and I’m glad they included a clear arc somewhere in it.
Now let’s talk about the Minions and do the personality thing again:
Kevin: He’s the leader. ….That’s it, he rolls at his at dumb stuff at some points but that is it.
Bob: He’s cute and at first they don’t think he should go but they’re like why not. He becomes king because reasons and that’s about it.
The Minions or more less joke machines there really is not much to them. To be fair, they try to establish arcs very early on in the scene where they leave the cave to find a master but those arcs vanish once the plot starts.
Seriously, outside of a few very breif moments, there’s no attempt at depth ever again. I’m not asking for anything Shakespearean, just something other than small moments that don’t go anywhere.
I mean, the Minion form a bond with a villain that betrays them, this should feed into some kind of arc with them but not really. I can at least tell you something 2 of them but their characters don’t go any deeper than what I said.
In a movie like this it’s not a huge deal but even Penguins gave me something to them which gave me a reason to care in some way. If you care about the Minions in this movie, fine but I didn’t because they are just joke machines in this film and it gets tiring after awhile.
That’s the big reason I find Minions to be just….eh. The title characters are not interesting and can’t hold up a full film. Their simple antics work fine in shorts or as supporting but in a full film it gets old and they don’t add enough to make me care.
Penguins of Madagascar doesn’t make it leads THAT much more interesting than before but it does keep them intact somewhere, even if some elements are kind of forced to make the plot work.
The leads in that film just come across as more fleshed out and importantly, more enjoyable to watch for 80 minutes than the rambling twinkes. This is all a long way of saying that the humor of Penguins of Madagascar is more varied and the leads offer a bit more and the film justifies it’s concept better.
Neither is ground breaking on either level but to me, Penguins stands taller by being funnier with better written leads. So thus it gets the final point.
WINNER: Penguins of Madagascar
With Minions only getting 1 point and Penguins getting 3 points, it’s pretty clear who wins here.
OVERALL WINNER: Penguins of Madagascar
Yeah, I know I said I wanted to avoid curb stomp battles but both are in the same league in terms of putting humor over story and it’s not like Penguins is amazingly better. Plus, since I originally saw both I preferred Penguins and wanted to really find out why.
And now I know. Minions isn’t really bad per say but I liked it even less on a 2nd viewing. As we’ve seen, as it has some amusing moments/elements but as a whole, it really does feel like a pilot for a Saturday Morning Cartoon on Nickelodeon (They did make a cartoons for the Minions of Gaming after all…) that somehow got stretched to 80 plus minutes.
Penguins is also kind of a stretched cartoon episode at times but at least has the excuse of following an actual TV series and at least had more to on a writing level.
Penguins is hardly a ground breaking film and when it comes to Dreamworks films that give the supporting the spotlight, Puss in Boots is waaaay better (Where’s that sequel, by the way?) but if you just turn your brain off a bit, you can have some goofy fun with it.
Minions has it’s moments but even by the standards of a film like it, it has no reason to exist. They tried but they could have tried harder. Again, Penguins managed to have an arc with the leads, so there’s no excuse.
I can’t be too hard on Minions since it’s not awful, and I’d rather watch it on a 24 hour loop than even look at the lemmings again. But still, it’s not good and my least favorite fully animated Illumination film so far (Because overall, it’s still better than Hop).
I did mostly to show how two films that seems pretty much the same due their goal but can still be different in execution. Again, both are the same artistically but in terms of my honest opinion, Penguins is full on Decent while Minions is …Average.
So there you go, a further look into two films no one has given much thought of after their releases. This is likely the closest you’ll get to the Curb Stomp Battle in this series so I hope you enjoyed.
I didn’t want to make it seem like Penguins is amazing or Minions is crap, it just became clearer which one I liked more as I wrote this. Still, these are fun to make. Shoot me any Movie Battle ideas you have. Especially Live Action ones, these won’t all be animated.
I’ll only say one more thing: I’ll take both films over what my next Scene by Scene Review will cover. Ugh. Until next time, Minions 4 Life out!
…I mean See ya.