Making a movie about “Despicable Me’s” minions might seem as sound an idea as telling the Jiminy Cricket story: The Good & Plenty-shaped sidekicks work as mischievous foils to Steve Carrell’s villainous Gru, but they were never meant to take center stage. Never, that is, until “Despicable Me 3” got pushed to 2017, and Universal had a hole to fill in its summer slate. But lo and behold, most critics find themselves surprised and delighted at the results, especially by the wordless sequences following the three core minions, Stuart, Kevin, and Bob, through time as they serve a series of no-good masters, from the T. Rex to Napoleon to Sandra Bullock’s Scarlett Overkill. A few reviews caution the movie is tailored so squarely for kid viewers that it will make grown-ups’ teeth hurt, but parents who’ve grown tired of “Inside Out” by mid-July will be glad to have something else to take their kids to.
“Minions” opens July 10.
Reviews of “Minions”
Peter Debruge, Variety
A “Despicable Me” prequel that traces Gru’s comic-relief henchmen all the way back to the time when they were single-celled organisms, “Minions” hilariously imagines centuries in which the little guys have sought to serve the greatest villain they could find, but quickly settles into more conventional cartoon territory once they fix on a dastardly new master named Scarlet Overkill, voiced by Sandra Bullock. Delivering more “Minions” but less heart than their two previous outings (which earned $543 million and $970 million worldwide), this by-popular-demand detour proves that as boundless as the yellow creatures’ appeal may seem, they work better as supporting characters than as the main attraction — not that the “Minions” will be wearing out their welcome anytime soon. They’re still the funniest cartoon characters in town, hitting that silly sweet spot capable of delighting everyone from toddlers to Kim Jong-un.
Tom Huddleston, Time Out
Little, yellow, peachy-keen, and essentially useless, the “Minions” are part of an animated tradition stretching back to the brooms in ‘Fantasia’, the Doozers in ‘Fraggle Rock’ and the aliens in ‘Toy Story’. But can they carry an entire film? The answer – surprisingly, pleasingly and resoundingly – is yes. Cut loose from the family-values slushiness of their parent franchise, the “Minions” are free to indulge their basest, weirdest, most randomly hilarious instincts.
Fionnuala Hannigan, Screen Daily
Narratively, “Minions” taps an unpredictable energy which gels with how children tell their own stories (“and then…. and then…. and then!”). It feels appealingly innocent, especially for a giant release with its crush of Minion marketing tie-ins. There’s a child-like cheerfulness to this film which few adults will be able to resist, even if the story is sketched in Three Stooges-style broadstrokes.
Boyd van Hoeij, Hollywood Reporter
The first two features in the series, which both were scripted by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, at least had central relationships that evolved over the course of the film, as Carell’s much-missed unsociable baddie, Mr. Gru, learned to become a father to three orphan girls (film one) or a potential romantic partner (part deux), with the fact that the villain was also the protagonist adding something fresh to otherwise-familiar character and plot developments. What’s missing in Lynch’s screenplay is a similar kind of arc on which to peg all the individual sequences, as the “Minions” — like the proper sidekicks they are — never really learn or change, always getting caught in variations of the same scenario. Add to that the fact that Overkill is a straightforward antagonist, and it feels like this particular collection of scenes could’ve just as well been 20 — or 200 — minutes long.
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
“Minions” tests the notion that what audiences enjoyed as a side dish can satisfy as an entrée; I don’t know if the movie picks up as it goes along, or if it merely beat me into submission, but after an initially slack 20 minutes or so, I did finally start laughing. It helps that, once the story moves into a world we recognize (albeit the world of 1968), screenwriter Brian Lynch (“Hop”) and directors Kyle Balda (“The Lorax”) and Pierre Coffin (“Despicable Me”) can riff on wonderfully absurd gags about everything from time travel to killer clowns to the musical “Hair.”
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush
A certain Looney Tunes influence does cut through the bland plotting from time to time; the “Minions” themselves spread anarchic weirdness wherever they go, and their goofy vibe can be pretty infectious. Steve Coogan also makes a fun (albeit too brief) appearance as Professor Flux, a mad scientist who builds a time machine and recruits future versions of himself to help him take over the world. But a lot of “Minions” falls flatter than Bob as he scurries away from Scarlet Overkill’s lava gun. The voices are unimaginative, the new characters are throwaways, and the story’s a total bust. Basically this is the kids movie version of U.S. Marshals, the spinoff of The Fugitive that took the Tommy Lee Jones comic-relief cop that everyone loved and gave him his own starring vehicle that everyone hated. Just let sidekicks be sidekicks.
Jordan Hoffman, Mashable
The first 15 minutes of “Minions” are absolutely terrific — essentially a history of a world that looks just like ours, except those babbling li’l Minion rascals are there, bouncing around and causing trouble. We first see them as cells in a 2D void, then the pre-historic era, ancient Egypt, the Middle Ages, the Napoleonic era and, finally, 1968. The story occasionally cuts back to the rest of the tribe still in the cave, where their slapstick and goofy faces still have some charm. Filling in the edges, “Minions” can still bring the goods. Front and center, however, and it’s quite irritating. The last act — all action — goes on forever.
Simon Brew, Den of Geek!
There are moments that do work; it’s hard not to enjoy some of the liberties the film takes with history, and at one stage, with time travel paradoxes. Furthermore, the denouement you have to applaud just for its genuine willingness to try something barmy. However, “Minions” ultimately lacks character, and it lacks story. None of this ultimately matters when it comes to the reason the film truly exists. “Minions” feels like it was dreamed up in a boardroom where congratulatory backslaps will also be likely when the box office numbers come in.
Scott Mendelson, Forbes
It is to the credit of the makers behind “Despicable Me 2,” whatever other issues I have with the film, that they didn’t allow the scene-stealing and kid-friendly “Minions” to take over the sequel back in 2013. But since the “Minions” remain popular (and really easy to use in the marketing materials), it makes sense that we’d end up with a spin-off movie starring the little devils. Unfortunately, like those penguins of Madagascar, the “Minions” work best in specific doses and can’t quite justify a full-length feature. The irony is that the former supporting characters become less amusing when given the spotlight, and we end up wanting to see more of this film’s supporting characters.
Gregory Ellwood, HitFix
The plot serves only as a mechanism to the cascade of sight gags. Many are fairly obvious, but the commitment Morel and his animators have to creating one visual joke after another is almost overwhelming. There is so much going on you wonder if it’s too much for kids to even take in on one sitting (how lucky for Universal).
What’s really missing, however, is the tenderness and heart that made the “Despicable Me” movies such beloved surprises. Yes, by the second film the “Minions” had officially stolen the show, but it’s always been Gru’s relationship with his adopted daughters that truly made these movies work. Coffin and Lynch try to inject the flick with a heartbeat at the end, but it feels slightly flat in context.
David Moynihan, Digital Spy
“Minions” aims for a younger audience than the Despicable Me movies and small children will adore the frequent physical humor and fast-paced, colourful chaos set to a Swinging ’60s soundtrack. It oozes family fun at every turn and is a candy-coated spectacular, well-timed for summer holiday trips to the cinema. Adults hoping for a somewhat smarter animation may need to look elsewhere.
Joe McGovern, Entertainment Weekly
As cuddly as the yellow rubber guys admittedly are, bobbing loyally beside Despicable’s Gru (Steve Carell) or singing in their own four-minute short videos, the gang simply can’t sustain an hour and a half on their own. Directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda provide the submental Spanglish voices of the “Minions”, which are calibrated to tickle out maximum giggles from the film’s toddler audience. Not from their parents. If “Minions” were a toy, you’d hide its batteries.