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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dark Minions

Article first posted as Amazon Originals Dark Minions Review on TheTVKing.

Amazon made a ballsy move by releasing one of their new pilots, Dark Minions, in an unfinished state. Intended to be stop-motion animation, only a handful of scenes are complete, with the rest presented as sketches and sound effects.

I do not know the costs associated with stop motion, so don't know if that was the reason for the incomplete look, but I got the gist of the program decently enough. The story is easy to follow, the characters are relatable and likeable, and the voice work is cartoonish enough to mostly overcome the lack of visual product.

Still, I do think Dark Minions would have benefited by being complete. It's hard to imagine some of the bigger scenes in their current form, and the look is not at all impressive. If the series was able to wow us with what it wants to do, I think that would have helped. At the end of the day, though, I hope that this presentation doesn't hurt its chances of being picked up.

Of all the Amazon comedy pilots, Dark Minions is the most family-friendly. Sure, there is an evil empire with a planet-destroying weapon. But the blustery leader is goofy and amusing. I can't recall, though I could be wrong, any cursing, and a couple of pot jokes, while not ideal viewing for children, might just go over their heads. Content-wise, it's the tamest of the releases.

Which doesn't mean that it's not enjoyable. Mel (John Ross Bowie, The Big Bang Theory) and Andy (Kevin Sussman, also The Big Bang Theory) are slackers, more or less, who go to work for the galactic conquerors because they need a paycheck. They are the lesser storm troopers, working deep within the bowels of the starship, with no power or influence over policy. Thus, they are harmless, and their sweet dispositions make us forgive their choice in jobs, which at least one of them has a good reason for taking.

While on assignment to a planet, they meet Carly (Jamie Denbo, Terriers) and Lance (Andrew Daly, Eastbound & Down), rebels who would like to overthrow their overlords. Mel and Andy manage to pass themselves off as antique dealers, rather than soldiers, and a bond forms between the foursome.

Which is why when Drebnor (Clancy Brown, SpongeBob SquarePants) decides to blow up their world, Mel and Andy risk life, limb, and employment to save their new friends. They succeed, and Carly, believing them to be prisoners, rather than liars, drags Lance along to save them.

I think there are the makings here for a sweet, heroic story. Carly will be mad when she learns she has been fooled, of course, but the genuine earnestness of the lead characters should be enough for them to eventually earn her forgiveness. Plus, they will likely end up helping her, so this could be a bumbling comedy about good guys trying to take down the bad ones. I see potential here.

I also found the "Pilot" quite amusing and charming. Most of the players here are everymen, people we can get behind and root for in every setting, even space, which provides a rich tapestry of trouble to get into and strange environments to visit. They screw up, thankfully, because it provides laughs, but rebound from doing so, too, without much harm done. One can enjoy the blunders when one knows there won't be any serious, dire consequences, which there won't be with Dark Minion's light tone. Side characters, such as Drebnor's blubbering assistant, Feldenbaum (Richard Kind, Luck), and the radio man, DJ Wormhole (Phil LaMarr, Futurama), help round out the world.

Overall, I wish I could have seen a completed project, but Dark Minions should have broad enough appeal to find an audience. Dark Minions is available now on Amazon.com.

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