In the two Despicable Me movies, the cute, yellow minions stole the show, but now, in their own spin-off, they steal your money.
Minions should not get a free pass simply because it’s a “children’s film.” It is an insult to both children and film. The word “film” connotes a form of artistry whereas Minions is more of an object–a cynical, mean-spirited, and insidious object. A movie for children should not have explicit threesome jokes, drunk gags, and abhorrent ethnic stereotypes. The biggest issue is not so much the questionable content, although that is a concern, but the lack of humor in it. Minions would have you believe that children are too dumb for plots and too uninterested in themes; they would much rather see a series of slap stick tangents with little connection to an overarching story or message. It’s hard to like something when it has an unabashed contempt for you.
We begin near the dawn of the earth and end in the 1960s with the Queen of England reclaiming her crown after the minions steal it for a super villain named Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock). In the middle there is a Godzilla-like transformation, an assault on a police officer, and a trip to the super-villain equivalent of Comic-Con. We understand how each plot point is linked to the next, but the enormous leaps in logic that connect the set-pieces are rambunctiously annoying. In one sequence, Kevin, Stuart, and Bob (the three minions), who have left the pack to find a new supervillain to follow, attempt to go into Buckingham Palace by going on a routine tour. To pay at the box-office, one of the minions hands the cashier a golden bar. That’s right, a golden bar! We don’t know where it came from or how he got it, but it’s supposed to be funny because a cute, yellow minion just paid for a cheap ticket with a freaking golden bar. Like every joke in this movie, it comes out of nowhere and you wish it had stayed there.
During one of Minions’ many random references, Herb Overkill, the main villain’s husband, looks at Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans and says, “Someone expressed my love of soup in painting form.” Where is the joke? Not even Jimmy Fallon would have performed one of his fake laughs for that failed gag.
This spin-off from the much-loved Despicable Me franchise feels more like a series of unlinked would-be comical situations imagined by an out-of-touch committee whose goal is to pander to both the adults and kids without any knowledge of what makes either group laugh. The sound design, which seems to be entirely taken from stock sound effects, the animation, which is derivative and bland, the writing, which is brutally uninspired and drab, are all indicators that the only love that went into this movie is for money.
The only moment that rings true is when Scarlett Overkill exclaims, “I never want to see any of your goofy bug-eyed faces again.” I want a restraining order for every kid and human being.