Minions Review Roundup: Undeniably Cute, but Does It Have Substance?

Critics take on animated summer movie

By Daniel Nissen Jul 09, 2015 10:32 PMTags

The lovable sidekicks from the Despicable Me movies are back, this time with a movie of their own: Minions

The Minions quest for the most despicable leader to follow seems hopeless as they span through millennia never able to attach to an evil overlord for more than a quick second. All of the little guys' prayers seem to be answered when representatives Bob, Stuart and Kevin travel to Orlando to meet up with supervillainess Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock). Things go awry and the Minions must battle for their lives. 

The prequel to the two Despicable Me movies, directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, comes out tomorrow, July 10. 

The movie is fun, zany and kids are sure to love it, but is that enough to fill an hour and 44 minutes? Here's what the critics are saying. 


• Boyd van Hoeij of The Hollywood Reporter writes," After switching 'round the formula used in the previous films, in which the Steve Carell-voiced villain was cast as the improbable lead, this Swinging London-set prequel goes back to a more classically structured setup, in which the bad guy — or rather, bad girl, voiced by a workmanlike Sandra Bullock — is the antagonist, while the mostly mumbling heroes take center stage. Unfortunately, this robs the film of much of what made its predecessors stand out, with the story lacking a clear narrative and emotional throughline to connect all of the film's set pieces.That said, the film's slapsticky gags are often amusing, and this franchise, which has turned out quality animated films on relatively small budgets (the first two were produced for under $78 million each), has built up a lot of audience goodwill, with Despicable Me 2 making $970 million worldwide. This at least bodes well for this film's opening weekend, though longer-term prospects seem more uncertain."


• Joe Morgenstern of  The Wall Street Journal writes,"Finally the Minions get to star in their own movie, and it turns out to be like one of those emails that's flagged with the phrase, 'This message has no content' after failing to load properly. What Minions does have is abundant if relentless cuteness, which audiences are sure to accept in lieu of content; people love these little guys. But the begoggled, capsule-shaped, banana-colored scamps who stole the show in two installments of the popular Despicable Me franchise deserved something better than this indifferently animated, catch-as-catch-can venture in comedic chaos...Everything that makes them appealing, though, makes them challenging candidates for stardom. How do you write a whole movie around a bunch of professional second bananas when they're asexual, although outwardly male; motivationally monotonous and intellectually translucent, if not opaque? The answer: by making it an origin story that tracks Minions through history in a long, amusing preface narrated by Geoffrey Rush, and one that concentrates on the only goal the Minions are known to have—serving the most despicable master they can find...Aside from the Sixties soundtrack, the best part of the production, Minions is frantically associative, a throwback to Saturday morning cartoons that leaps from one nitwit notion to the next."


• Jesse Hassenger of A.V. Club writes,"This makes less sense than their implied origin in Despicable Me as creations of aspiring supervillain Gru, but showing the Minions crawling out of the ocean more or less fully formed (minus their trademark blue overalls, acquired in the 20th century) does lead to some funny sequences of the little yellow folks bumbling their way through prehistory, the dawn of man, and into recorded history, forever in search of the strongest supervillain to serve. Or, more accurately, this would lead to some funny sequences if Minions trusted its audience to understand the medium of animation. The Minions come from a long line of cartoon characters unencumbered by the English language and perfectly expressive without it. Yet their movie opens with plummy storybook narration explaining who the Minions are, what they want, and on and on, suffocating what should be a fun gag reel. (With prolonged exposure, the movie also loosens up their gibberish style of speaking—voiced, per gibberish-talking sidekick tradition, by director Pierre Coffin—slipping in plenty of English words among French and Spanish phrases.) Half the fun of this character style is the way animators can communicate so much through facial movements or expressive slapstick, but Minions is too busy translating itself to appreciate its own potential craft."


• Kennet Turan of the L.A. Times writes,"Who doesn't love the minions? Nominally devoted to evil but also, to borrow a phrase from Raymond Chandler, cute as lace pants, these capsule-shaped and coverall-wearing creatures are so appealing that even those not wild about Despicable Me found them difficult to resist...But could these wacky wayfarers carry an entire movie on their own, or would they be doomed to eternal second-bananahood, relegated to supporting tacky villains who lacked their ineffable effervescence? Now Minions the movie is here, and the news is good...Even better for the film's energy level, many of its sequences are set to an exceptional collection of '60s rock classics like the Kinks' 'You Really Got Me,' the Who's 'My Generation,' the Doors' 'Break on Through (To the Other Side),' the Box Tops' 'The Letter,' the Rolling Stones' '19th Nervous Breakdown,' the Spencer Davis Group's 'I'm a Man.' And more... As noted, the plotting in Minions does go a bit wonky (would you believe Bob as the king of England?), but it matters not. Minions provide endless amusement just by being themselves, and how many of today's movie characters can you say that about?"


• Peter Suderman of The Washington Times writes,"The title of Minions refers to its main characters, a troop of bright-yellow, pill-shaped creatures who served as comic relief henchmen in the first two Despicable Me films. But it might as well refer to its intended audience, the very young children who are most likely to be amused by this silly, superficial, commercial trifle...Your own little minions might love it, but if you're old enough to be their villainous overlord, or even just the kindly adult who accompanies them to the movies, you'll probably be less enthralled...But while the Minions made great comic punctuation, they're far less effective as leading creatures. These babbling bad guy buddies were so hilarious in the earlier films in part because they were so random. You didn't know where they came from or what they would do next. They existed outside the demands of narrative conventions, in a state of hilarious absurdist imbalance. They were funny in part because there was no attempt to explain them."

Universal Studios

• Mike Scott of the The Times-Picayune writes,"But these Minions, they work in mysterious ways. As a result, the uneven but entirely genial Minions does, too...What we're left with is a loosely connected string of pratfalls, fart sounds and the repeated flashing of little yellow tushies, all set to a classic rock beat. (That last bit, at least, clears the way for one of the best kiddie-movie soundtracks in some time...This movie really, really should be irredeemably annoying after 20 minutes or so. Truth be told, it comes dangerously close to becoming just that on more than one occasion...And therein lies the real genius of Minions. Whether by design or by accident, it's next to impossible to see these mischief-prone merrymakers as anything but on-screen versions of the children in our lives. They are tickled by at the same things that tickle our children. They are confused by the same things that confuse our children. And they are saddened by the same things that sadden our children...But then the Minions do something Minion-y, and we're right back there with them, chuckling along."

(E! and Universal Pictures are part of the NBCUniversal family.)