In just seven days Minions will officially bow in US theaters nationwide. A spinoff of the Despicable Me franchise that features the titular absent-minded characters who are the cause of equal amounts of scorn and admiration, it doesn’t take much to know that this film will make a lot of money at the box office (and it already has, as I’ll explain later). But, the question that is certainly on the minds of many readers is whether Minions is any good.
Well, according to the critics, it’s by no means a masterpiece. That said, you might have a good time at the theater (provided that you are willing to accept its nutty, in-universe logic).
(WARNING: Several of these reviews contain SPOILERS for Minions. You have been warned.)
Right now, the Rotten Tomatoes meter for Minions stands at a 74% “Fresh” rating, with the written consensus stating as follows: “The Minions’ brightly colored brand of gibberish-fueled insanity stretches to feature length in their self-titled Despicable Me spinoff, with uneven but often hilarious results.” Interestingly enough, this was the same rating given to Despicable Me 2. I’m not sure if it’s coincidental, but it’s not at all surprising.
Judging from most of the reviews the overall mindset seems to be that, while those who hoped that Illumination would finally break out with a masterpiece will be sorely disappointed, Brian Lynch’s script does just enough to allow for a frantic and fast-paced (at least after the first half) series of set pieces, complete with handfuls of absurdist plot points.
Alonso Duralde (of TheWrap) seems to share this sentiment, even as he admitted that he only started laughing after 20 minutes. “Minions, the new movie, tests the notion that what audiences enjoyed as a side dish can satisfy as an entrée,” Duralde writes. He commends Brian Lynch and directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda for using the Minions as an opportunity to riff on 60’s pop culture. On the flip side, he does warn moviegoers not to expect a deep plot or anything that goes beyond the increasingly elaborate physical jokes.
What is definitely going to be a surprise to many viewers is the slightly more adult edge to the film’s humor. CJ Johnson (of ABC Radio in Australia) says as much in his review. Johnson states, “There are endless jokes at the expense of the English – none offensive, mind you – and the human characters are all a lot sexier than you’d find walking around in a Pixar, Disney, or DreamWorks flick. Even Britain’s Queen – quite a major character! – slouches louchely.” He even commends the “killer” soundtrack, saying here: “You know you’re a successful franchise when you can license a Beatles track for your closing credits.”
But not everyone was warm to the little yellow men. Scott Mendelson (Forbes) was one of them. “Minions has an inspired visual lunacy and some solid gags,” Mendelson said, “but it can’t sustain a feature-length story and barely tries to tell one.”
This being said, Mendelson did lavish some praise on the film’s near-admirable boldness as it “eschews conventional narrative filmmaking rules in favor of absurdist sight gags.” Mendelson approved of this boldness so much so that he writes of his disappointment that the film “doesn’t really pause to milk some of the more interesting story turns for their comedic value.” He also praises the “atypical” period setting of 1960’s New York and London. While it does (intentionally) skim over the more sensitive aspects of the era, Mendelson does commend the film for pausing (however briefly) to “acknowledge the political strife of the period.”
Mendelson also commends the voice performances of Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm, who play the husband-and-wife team of Scarlet and Herb Overkill. The characters’ relationship is said to be “refreshingly non-antagonistic.” Surprisingly enough, he deems the Overkills as “so much more interesting and original than the minions themselves that I found myself wanting more of the two villainous lovers and less of the title characters.”
Ultimately, Scott’s view of the film is that it is an interesting, yet ultimately disappointing, experiment. “The filmmakers were going for a somewhat anarchic spirit that is out-of-the-ordinary for mainstream American animated film, and I appreciate the things it didn’t include. It’s not remotely sentimental, there is no forced romance nor any real lessons to be learned. The periodic setting is a nice touch, there is at least one unexpected plot turn, and the film is amusingly indifferent towards (if not quite outright endorsing) the inherently villainous nature of its protagonists,” he writes. Mendelson ends with the following statement: “Minions is definitely trying something a little bit wicked, and I appreciate that they have used the capital of the already established Despicable Me franchise to go a little nuts. That I didn’t care much for it or laugh enough is merely an unfortunate end-result. You may-well laugh more, and Bullock and Ham are a hoot to the end.”
Peter Debruge (Variety) echoed part of Mendelson’s sentiment in the opening header, stating that the Minions are “disappointingly stronger in concept than in story.” That said, his review is much more on the positive side of the equation. He praises the film for covering a lot of ground with its setting, while likewise taking issue with missed opportunities for humor. He ends with the sentiment that the Minions (and their creators) still have a few tricks left up their sleeve. “There must have been a million Minion ideas that Lynch and everyone involved simply weren’t able to incorporate into the film. Here’s hoping the best of them find their way into Despicable Me 3, due out summer 2017,” Debruge writes.
No matter which way the reviews lean, it won’t stop Minions from making money at the box office. In fact, it’s already made money.
Currently, Minions has pulled in over $53 million overseas, after debuting in more than 44 markets in the month of June (ahead of its American bow). It already broke records for having the biggest opening day of all-time for an animated movie in countries like the UK, Brazil, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
Even more unsurprising (or shocking, depending on your view) is that Minions saw a huge jump in the increase of fan engagement across the social media realm. As measured by Variety and ListenFirst’s Digital Audience Ratings system (DAR), Minions shot up from fifth to first with a 30% build in activity (topping Inside Out).
As you can already tell, the film’s oncoming victory lap will surprise nobody. What is a surprise is that, for better or worse, Illumination has crafted a film that goes outside what is usually expected of an animated comedy for something a little more macabre and surreal (while using a super-popular group of characters to do so). It’s still not the film that shows us the company’s true potential but, for that alone, I give Illumination their props.
Minions hits theaters on July 10. If you live anywhere in the Mesa, AZ area, you have only one more day to secure your tickets for a special advanced screening of Minions at the AMC Mesa Grand theater at 7PM on July 7. The contest ends this Sunday, July 5.
What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on the opinions given by these critics? Will you see Minions?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes