Despite its ominous title, the 2010 hit film “Despicable Me” was a touching, funny, values-affirming, redemptive tale about a supervillain whose heart is melted by three little orphan girls in need of love. It was a gem of a film, and it’s no wonder it spawned a sequel (“Despicable Me 2”) and now a spinoff, “Minions.”
But unlike its predecessors, “Minions” is neither redemptive nor heart-warming nor values-affirming, and frankly, it isn’t nearly as funny as you might as expect. Oh, it will generate a few laughs and plenty of grins, but it’s far too short on the guffaws, has little plot, even less heart, and in the final analysis … well, I’ll just say it: “Minions” is a dud.
The animated film opens in primordial oceans, as small, yellow creatures evolve into beings that follow after the biggest, baddest fish they can find, until they learn to serve an amphibian, then a dinosaur, then Dracula, then Napoleon, and so forth, always on the lookout to serve a new evil “Master,” and all the while – through childlike incompetence and blundering – undermining the very masters they serve.
The premise is clever, rife with comedy potential, and the Minions themselves have been pop-culture superstars, injecting laughable moments into not only the “Despicable” movies, but also commercials, T-shirts, Happy Meals and anything else they market.
So far, so good.
But unfortunately for Minion fans, the movie “Minions” doesn’t take it any further. There’s just too little story, too little character development, too little plot to hang their antics upon. They take on a new master, they innocently undermine this one too, and that’s pretty much the end: No new crisis, no growth, no moral dilemma, no real danger, no redemptive element – that’s just all there is.
I have to admit, I struggled to stay awake through the movie, even though my theater was filled to the brim with kids, many of whom were nearly as bored as I was.
Now, I will say the movie’s animation is beautiful, and the final five minutes were brilliant, what audiences were hoping to see the whole time. As it ends well, many audiences will walk out with a favorable impression, but if you were to stop the movie five minutes short and ask people what they think of it, you’d probably get a resounding … “Meh, it’s OK.”
The really bad news, however, is that the whole redemptive element of the “Despicable” movies is missing from “Minions.” The Minions hang out with villains who glorify villainy and stay villainy. The Minions themselves learn no lesson, experience no meaningful growth or transformation.
At one point, a key character laughs and declares, “Doesn’t it feel so good to be bad?”
And the movie’s story basically answers, “Yes. Uh, pretty much. We didn’t really think about anything else. But we’re funny, right?”
Yeah … no.
Instead of that values-affirming, redemptive storyline that made “Despicable Me” anything but despicable, the filmmakers behind “Minions” just give audiences a non-stop diet of what I call “butt and booger” jokes and think that a movie makes. It doesn’t.
“Minions” will do just fine at the box office, but artistically, culturally, worldview-wise, it’s a complete flop. It doesn’t teach anything positive and models nothing but naughtiness. As much as much as Junior may beg Mommy or Daddy to take him to see it, parents may want to first ask themselves the question, “Why?”
- “Minions,” rated PG, contains neither obscenity nor profanity.
- The movie has no sex scene or romantic storyline, but it does play some sexual humor and apparently thinks butts are really funny. Butts, thongs, slapping butts, lots o’ butts. There’s also a sequence where a Minion in disguise as a woman opens a panel in “her” shirt, revealing the curvature of the “breasts” are really the curvature from the Minion’s goggles, an ongoing gag. The movie has a few jokes about covering a Minion’s genitalia (even though they have none). One of the Minions pretends to kiss and hug someone, while all the while his own hands are rubbing up and down his back and grabbing his (you guessed it) butt.
- The movie contains a lengthy list of slapstick, cartoonish violence – from prehistoric animals eating one another, to smacking things with clubs, to canons, to physical combat, to bazooka fire at police cars, to natural disasters, fire-breathing, shooting lava, a torture room (where the minions actually think it fun to string up a noose and “hang” one another – parental caution on THAT one), etc, etc. Lots of villainy, lots of violence, but all cartoonish. There is, however, one intense scene where a beloved Minion is believed to have been killed. It’s a surprising and intense moment that stunned our theater silent.
- The film has only minor religious references, such as the evolutionary opening, the presence of Dracula in a coffin, a sign that reads, “God save the queen,” and a coronation ceremony that happens in a church with clergy and stained glass windows of “saints.”