Set in the near future, the film follows a young man named Lester (Thomas Middleditch), who has a heart and passion for becoming the ultimate henchman. But becoming a skilled henchman takes hard work and regular attendance at “Union of Evil”, the school of henchmen. After failing his first test, Lester is assigned to a crew of workers that complete minor duties such as cleaning. While working among this crew, Lester meets Hank (James Marsden), a fallen henchman with a mysterious past.
At first, Hank can’t help but give Lester life advice, even more so when he learns about his desire to serve as henchman to a supervillain. After an incident occurs, Hank is officially assigned to Lester as his mentor, and he begins to train and teach Lester in his quest to become a henchman. But things take a turn for the worst for Lester when he accidentally unlocks and steals the ultimate weapon while he’s cleaning and mopping. Now Hank will be forced to bend the rules and assemble a team to save Lester, perhaps even rising to become the ultimate superhero who saves the day and rescues Lester before it’s too late.
Henchmen is best described as a family film filled with random comedy moments. The film’s style and general look when it comes to animation is highly simple and basic, almost feeling like direct to DVD quality. What makes the film more cinematic is the long list of talented voice actors, including Nathan Fillion, Rosario Dawson, Alfred Molina, Rob Riggle, Jane Krakowski, Craig Robinson, and many more.
As for the comedy side of things, the film is evidently made for a young audience with jokes consisting of random one-liners, burp and fluff jokes, and the list goes on. While an adult audience will enjoy the frequent references to (and mocking of) many popular superhero titles (such as Avengers, The Incredibles and even Die Hard) through subtle references and a classic rock musical number, there isn’t much else for them here. Nor is there much that feels overly fresh.
I enjoyed the fun and creative opening, which introduced its viewers to the exciting world of Union of Evil. But sadly, once we witness our lead putting on a highly dangerous suit, the film changes in tone. Because for the majority of the runtime lead characters bumble around, I felt disconnected and disinterested. Throughout the film, there’s little to no character development or reason to cheer any character on, and characters make poor choices amidst attempted humour. Again, I feel a younger audience would see this differently.
Overall, while Henchmen introduces a fun concept and a pleasing world of supervillains, I sadly found myself disengaged for the vast majority of this animated feature. The opening is promising, and the film includes some classic musical tracks, but once the plot gets underway, things fall downhill quite rapidly. Granted, younger cinemagoers will enjoy superhero themes, random jokes, slapstick humour, and fluff and burp gags. With such a wonderful line-up of voice actors, I hoped for something far greater than what ultimately felt dull in aspects of its visuals and main storyline. Henchmen (2018) is Now Available on DVD.