Since its debut release Despicable Me in 2010, Universal’s animated studio arm Illumination Entertainment has forged a path for itself as one of the industry’s most lucrative animated film producers, earning over $5.7billion in worldwide box office receipts from only 8 movies and establishing one of the biggest franchises in all of Hollywood, the Minions.
Financially, Illumination is already a legitimate rival to the animation powerhouses Disney, Disney Pixar and Dreamworks Animation, but how do their movies shape up? In this edition of Ranked, we order every Illumination Entertainment feature-length cinematic release from worst to best.
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8. Hop (2011)
Worldwide Box Office: $184million
Starring: James Marsden, Kaley Cuoco, Russell Brand, Elizabeth Perkins, Hugh Laurie, Gary Cole, David Hasselhoff, Hank Azaria
So far Illumination’s only step into the world of live-action/animation hybrids, Hop was a flop critically and with good reason. The movie, starring James Marsden (X-Men; Enchanted) and ‘Big Bang Theory’ actress Kaley Cuoco, as well as a slew of famous names including Russell Brand, Hank Azaria and Hugh Laurie, was unremarkable in almost every aspect apart from how cheesy it was, with the high-end list of actors seemingly knowing how bad the movie was destined to be and therefore playing it like a purposefully terrible spoof movie.
Hop was an early misfire for a studio looking to prove its credentials, and though it does still pass as an acceptable movie for children to enjoy, it doesn’t even come close to the rest of Illumination’s catalogue and is by far the worst of their releases to date.
7. Minions (2015)
Worldwide Box Office: $1.16billion
Cast: Pierre Coffin, Steve Carell, Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Geoffrey Rush, Jennifer Saunders
A review of this film, published by The Film Magazine, described it as follows:
“The only way to accurately describe Minions to any reader of this review over the age of 18 would be to suggest to them that the story is so bizarre that it’s almost fixating despite its ridiculousness, and that the only conceivable way to understand the processes of the writer are to assume he – Mr. Brian Lynch (Hop; Puss In Boots) – was on some kind of acid trip when he wrote it.” – Joseph Wade (read the review here)
Minions was the sort of movie that made even less sense than the language the popular little creatures use to communicate, yet it was beautifully animated and almost charming in how frighteningly random it was. It was hardly a good movie, but it gave fans of the Minions all they could have asked for: more Minions. Besides, it wasn’t as bad as Hop, so that’s something… and did you know that it’s the 2nd highest grossing animated film of all time?
You do now…
6. Despicable Me 3 (2017)
Worldwide Box Office: $1billion
Starring: Steve Carell, Trey Parker, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Pierre Coffin, Dana Gaier, Steve Coogan, Jenny Slate, Julie Andrews
The third movie in the central series of Despicable Me movies and by far the third best, Despicable Me 3 is in fine company as one of only several $1billion grossing animated movies, though much of that is due to the Minions (of course).
It’s not that Despicable Me 3 is a bad movie, because it isn’t, it’s just that it felt lacking in originality and some of the nuanced moments of cuteness and/or creativity that pushed its predecessors to such heights. This iteration of the central story still features a buzz of energy that people can associate with the franchise and, though it relies a little too heavily on slapstick humour to entertain, it’s far from an arduous task to consume it.
Despicable Me 3 may have less going for it than 1 & 2, but it’s certainly has a lot more to offer than its more hollow spin-off Minions.
5. Sing (2016)
Worldwide Box Office: $634million
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Nick Kroll, Jennifer Hudson, John C. Reilly, Nick Offerman, Garth Jennings, Jennifer Saunders, Leslie Jones
What do you get when you cross popular reality TV shows with animated animals and a whole heap of licensed music? Sing.
Illumination’s 2016 animated release starring the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Scarlett Johansson was hardly a ground-breaking success for the art of animation, nor did it feel like a must-have addition to a child’s DVD collection, but it did have a little something about it even if it did seem like a movie created by committee in the search for profit rather than by artists in the search of truth.
It’s one of those films you can’t help but to smile at sometimes, and that’s okay.