Minions – Christian Movie Review
[Note: after you read my review for “Minions” below, if you’re a fan of C.S. Lewis, please check out my new blog Stabs of Joy or my podcast Aslan’s Paw. Both seek to crack open the surprising treasures of Christian belief — the things that Western society has forgotten, ignored, or never encountered — with the help of logic, literature, film, music, and one very unsafe Lion.]
It’s hard not to like those banana-like creatures, and it’s hard not to like their first feature movie too. Although perhaps not as superbly awesome as “Despicable Me,” “Minions” is still a riot. (And, surprisingly, its Rotten Tomatoes started out in the strong 70s, then sunk quickly down to the 50s. Personally, I think the critics were being a little tough on the wee yellow creatures. More on that in a little bit.)
That being said, it is also probably the most “PG” out of all the Despicable Me movies. And because the majority of my readers for movies like these are parents who are really careful about what kind of entertainment their kids consume, I’m going to focus a little more on the parental guidance issues than I usually do.
Although the vast majority of this movie is perfectly clean and great for most kids, here’s what I mean by “the most PG” of all the Despicable Me films: male human characters, for example, do a dance that is sort of (perhaps subtly) imitating some kind of mock strip tease (played for laughs and very silly, of course) but we still see three overweight men throwing off their shirts and slapping each other’s bottoms in a very ridiculous way. It’s very silly, but still: it’s a striptease. Personally, I found it offensive and distasteful for a kid’s movie.
There are other small, fleeting hints of things taken from the adult world (and all its complex issues) that some parents might feel are inappropriate or even offensive in the context of a little kid’s movie — like, in a brief scene, there is a very gay hairdresser character (with all the stereotypes of a gay hairdresser exaggerated) whose apparent gayness is played for laughs, and another character who seems to be a cross-dresser (though that isn’t 100% clear). They are fleeting and only take up a small percentage of the movie’s running time, but I was still surprised to see them in a film that will definitely draw younger elementary-aged kids (or even younger).
The film also takes some scary moments and cranks them up a notch that just feels a little too much for a little kid’s movie. After seeing it, my wife felt it was a 6 years and up movie only. I’d agree with her. Some parents might prefer to skip it altogether (or perhaps screen it first before taking very young ones to see it, so you can decide for yourself), depending on their approach to kid’s movies, of course. Coming from the perspective of a parent who is probably on the more protective/stricter end of the spectrum than most, I’m not planning to take my three-year-old daughter to see it.
I’ll cover all this stuff in detail next, and then talk a little more about the entertainment quality and any evident worldviews in the film (and there is an obvious one, actually); and, for anyone who does see this film, I’ll also let you know if you should stick around for credits at the end of the movie (and for how long).
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance for this PG-rated film…
Sexual Content/Nudity/Themes of Sexuality and Romance: Three hypnotized men engage in a striptease, throwing off articles of clothing down to their boxers, and then slapping each other’s butts. In the whole category of sexual identity/gender issues, there is an (apparently) gay character and a cross-dressing character; both are stereotypes emphasized loudly (if only briefly) and exaggerated in a silly context meant for laughs. A husband and wife character embrace and kiss passionately and speak in exaggerated and silly seductive tones to each other in front of the Minions. One of the Minions makes fun of the couple and imitates them (and grabs his own butt as a man would do who was groping a woman while kissing her).
Violence/Gore/Scary Content: The most PG content in this category is when various villains are chasing the Minions through London, and a couple of the villains are clearly inspired by horror movies: i.e. one villain is a very scary looking clown and another villain is a man with a chainsaw. The chainsaw villain has white and black face paint so his face looks a little like a skull (or like the Joker from Dark Knight). The Minions hide in a phone booth, but they find the chainsaw man waiting for them, who then cranks on his chainsaw with intent to saw them to pieces. So the whole claustrophobic trapped-in-a-tight-space-with-a-chainsaw-murderer adds to the fright. (As I said, this movie is the most PG of the Despicable Me films). The scary villain chasing sequence is brief; however, also during this scene, one of the Minions is grabbed and pulled into a body of water by a villain modeled after the Creature from the Black Lagoon. A young girl in front of us was especially frightened by this part (because it appeared the Minion had been killed), and she asked her mom if she could leave. (But a few minutes later the young girl felt better about everything when she saw that the Minion was still okay. But it was a rather intense moment for a very young kid — so much so that she actually asked her mom to leave!) There is much slapstick Minion violence. Although some of the deaths of their bosses are quite violent (though not gory in the least), like when a giant glacier crushes the head of an abominable snow man. A scary torture chamber is shown, complete with a guillotine and other frightening looking torture tools and devices, and the Minions pretend to use them in a comical way. A family (who are aspiring villains like Gru was in the first Despicable Me) robs a bank together (even the little kids help out).
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: Queen Elizabeth, in a scene played for laughs (and it was quite funny, actually), is seen in a pub with a bunch of rough-neck blokes, and they’re all drinking large mugs of beer together.
(Review continues below)
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Entertainment Value and Film Craft (And Whether the Credits Have Special Stuff at the End)
Although, as mentioned above, I personally wouldn’t take my very young daughter (3-year-old) to see this because it’s the most PG of the Despicable series, as an adult judging it purely on its ability to entertain, I found it absolutely hilarious and delightful.
I laughed out loud — very loudly out loud — for probably 80% of the movie. It was a total riot.
Although not on the same level as the first Despicable Me with its plot (“Minions,” honestly, is very basic and unambitious compared to the more thoughtful Despicable Me), it comes somewhat close to the best of the Gru movies, and the Minions are as endearing and laugh-out-loud as ever. The voice acting of the all-star cast was also a highlight of the film: the leads Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”), Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”), Michael Keaton (“Birdman”), and narrator Geoffrey Rush (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) all did wonderful work. The way they wrote the Herb Overkill character (and the way Hamm played him) was especially funny.
I especially adored the late 1960s retro-chic English-British-London motif (I’m a big fan of England in general) — complete with cobblestone streets, lots of great shots of Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London (and London in general), and hilarious English mannerisms exaggerated and gently poked fun at (“Mind the gap!”); which, actually, reminded me of a Wallace and Gromit movie at certain moments. Even the way they animated the young Queen Elizabeth’s mouth reminded me strongly of Wallace and Gromit-style animation. In general, I loved the atmosphere of this film. They really immerse you into the environment. They also take advantage of the 1960s motif and fill the movie with fantastic classic rock and vintage pop songs. It’s a superb soundtrack.
And this is one of those rare movies where paying for a 3-D ticket is actually worth the money. They make good use of the 3-D animation, which helped the settings feel so immersive and atmospheric.
Without giving any spoilers away, I will also say that they tied “Minions” into the storyline of “Despicable Me” in a very fun, satisfying way that will be sure to please fans of Gru and the two Despicable Me films.
Also, if you do go see this movie: stay for the credits and also stay after the credits until the very last word finishes scrolling up. It’s worth it.
Worldviews, Subtext, Symbolism, Themes of Redemption, Social Commentary, Etc.
Like just about every other Hollywood movie I’ve seen this year for some reason, the film presents the theory of macro-evolution as the explanation for the origin of man. This worldview is presented when the history of the Minions are explained.
Conclusion: A Hilarious, Immersive Film, But Not Perfect (and Not Quite on Par with the Original “Despicable Me” In Its Plot)
Although I wish they wouldn’t have stuck those more adult themes of sexuality into a little kid’s movie — and though the fright factor might be a little too high for some younger kids — “Minions,” for the vast majority of its run time, is raucous clean fun set in a memorably atmospheric London. It will have both parents and kids rolling with laughter, though I’d recommend some caution with the PG content if you’re thinking of bringing very young ones.
My rating for “Minions”: [usr 6.5 ]
[If you’re a fan of U2 or C.S. Lewis, please check out my new blog Stabs of Joy that explores dozens of Lewis books and U2 albums to answer one question: how do we find joy in the midst of extremely difficult circumstances?]
Note about my ratings:
1 star = one of the worst movies ever made (the stuff of bad movie legends), and it usually (not always) has below 10% on Rotten Tomatoes
2-3 stars = a mostly bad movie that has a handful of nice moments; it usually falls between (but not always — as is the case with “Spy”) 10-30% on Rotten Tomatoes
4-6 stars = a decent movie with some flaws, overall. Four stars mean its flaws outweigh the good. Five stars mean equal good, equal bad. Six stars mean it’s a fairly good movie, with some great moments even, that outweigh a few flaws. A 4-6 star rating usually means it falls between 30-59% on Rotten Tomatoes (but not always).
7-9 stars = a rare rating reserved only for the best movies of that year; and a film must have a Fresh Tomato rating (60% or higher) on Rotten Tomatoes to be given 7 stars or higher, with a few exceptions (if I strongly disagree with the critics).
10 stars = one of the best films of all time, right up there with the all-time greats (i.e. Casablanca, The African Queen, Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars Episode IV, Indiana Jones, etc.).
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