Family Movie Review: Minions (PG)

Minions ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalhalf popcorn kernal

MPAA Rating: PG        Length: 91 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 8+. This Minions-specific prequel to the 'Despicable Me' films is set mostly during the late 1960s, so some of the time-and-place jokes (about the Beatles, '60s fashions, TV shows, and so forth) will go over kids' heads. There's also an array of animated violence (people get hurt in car accidents, banks are robbed, a vampire gets burned into dust, there's a battle scene), some bathroom humor and bare butts, some kissing, and some men dancing in their underwear.

The spinoff 'Minions' film is cute but slight. Its rushed plot may bore some older children, but for the most part it should please.

By Roxana Hadadi

Spinoff movies could do a lot worse than "Minions." The scene-stealing henchmen from the "Despicable Me" films get their own standalone story in the prequel "Minions," and although the plot is slight and rushed, the film is undeniably cute. It's adorable enough to keep children entertained and clever enough with its '60s setting to amuse parents, and that's really the most we could ask for.

"Minions" starts far before the events of the "Despicable Me" films, in which the little yellow guys with the denim coveralls and the one- or two-lensed goggles are already in the enthralled employ of evil villain Gru. Instead, we see the Minions develop over time, from single-celled organisms and onward, following around the biggest, baddest leader they could find – whom they always seem to accidentally kill, like causing a Tyrannosaurus Rex to roll off a cliff or turning Dracula into dust or crushing the Egyptian Pharaoh. But if the Minions don't have a master, they'll become depressed and die out. They need a villain to follow in order to survive.

This becomes painfully obvious when the Minions end up trapped in an underground snowy cave for years, where their will to live ebbs by the day, until three Minions volunteer to venture into the world and find a new master: the responsible leader Kevin, the impetuous and reckless Stuart, and the young and easily influenced Bob. Eventually they make their way to New York City in 1968, where they obtain their denim outfits for the first time, and learn about an underground villain network holding a convention in Orlando. That's where they're recruited by the world's foremost baddie, the beautiful, devious thief Scarlett Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock, of "Gravity"), who says she'll be their new master if they do one small thing for her: steal the Queen of England's crown.

What are the Minions to do but agree? It's a crazy idea, but Scarlett and her inventor husband Herb (voiced by Jon Hamm, of "Million Dollar Arm") seem prepared, giving Kevin, Stuart, and Bob a variety of weapons to help in their quest. But when things go irreversibly wrong and someone unexpected ends up with the crown, the Minions find that who they wanted to be their new master may end up being their new enemy.

The greatest challenge for the "Minions" movie was developing sympathetic characters and a clear plot despite the Minions not speaking English, and that hurdle is cleared easily. There is so much nuance in how the Minions use tone, inflection, and body language when speaking their French- and Spanish-tingled gobblygook that it's clear for audiences how Kevin, Stuart, and Bob relate to each other and to the humans they interact with, and Bullock and Hamm also pull their weight in making Scarlett and Herb seem like two people wholly in love who also really, really want to take over the world. In terms of voice acting, everyone wins.

There is some strangeness to "Minions," though: Its 1960s setting makes many of its jokes and soundtrack choices foreign to young viewers, and the choice to set the film in the United Kingdom and make the Queen of England a central character may also throw off children who aren't quite familiar with world geography yet. Plus, the plot moves very fast – far more rapidly than either of the "Despicable Me" films – so the film seems a bit thin overall. And the 3D is not at all worth it.

Ultimately, though, "Minions" has a good amount of cuteness going for it, and the backstory dreamed up for the henchmen is thoughtful. This isn't a film with a big message, like the superior "Inside Out," but for younger children, it will work just fine.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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