'Minions': Cute critters better off as second bananas, reviews say

'Minions': Cute critters better off as second bananas, reviews say
A scene from "Minions." (Universal Pictures)

In their continued quest for world and box office domination, the gibberish-spouting, capsule-shaped henchmen of the "Despicable Me" franchise have returned — this time with top billing — in the animated adventure "Minions."

But while many moviegoers and critics found the minions to be the most entertaining part of two Steve Carell-starring "Despicable" films, many reviews say the lovable lackeys don't quite carry their own feature-length spinoff.


In one of the more positive reviews, The Times' Kenneth Turan says the movie's "all-silliness all-the-time philosophy will put a smile on faces and keep it there, like a fizzy beverage on a hot afternoon." He adds that the spinoff "is not any great shakes in terms of plot — and what it has runs out of steam before the end — but in a film like this the story is only an excuse to hang amusing characters and gags on, and 'Minions' has both in abundance."

The movie also benefits from "an exceptional collection of '60s rock classics" by the Kinks, the Who and others, Turan says. Ultimately, the minions "provide endless amusement just by being themselves, and how many of today's movie characters can you say that about?"

Less impressed is the New York Times' Manohla Dargis, who calls the movie "different but also the same." The good news is that the diminutive flunkies "are more (unconsciously, if perhaps also strategically) in touch with their anarchic side than the typical onesie-wearing crusader, which suits the directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda's well-tuned sense of the absurd."

But while the jokes are "plentiful and often ticklish, visual as well as verbal," Dargis says, "the comedy winds down once a story and other characters begin to intrude."

USA Today's Brian Truitt writes, "Watching the banana-loving, goggle-clad yellow dudes of 'Minions' move and groove through history, making 'friends' with dinosaurs, Dracula and Napoleon along the way, is an altogether charming sight." Too often, though, the movie "settles for juvenile humor along the lines of fart jokes and one of the animated stars running around in thong underwear. Plus, the 'Looney Tunes'-style violence is mean-spirited at times for a franchise centered on adorable weirdos."

As for the cast, Truitt says, Sandra Bullock is "just so-so and short on the right amount of megalomania" for her supervillain character, Scarlet Overkill. But Jon Hamm "makes up for it, going over the top voicing her kooky inventor husband," and supporting players Jennifer Saunders, Allison Janney and Michael Keaton also lift the movie.

The Washington Post's Michael O'Sullivan says, "Although 'Minions' will probably delight small children, [the movie] may well drive their parents insane, despite being set in the 1960s and boasting a classic-rock soundtrack."

The problem, O'Sullivan says, is that "90 minutes of listening to the 'dialogue' of Minions — who jabber in a helium-pitched blend of pidgin French, Spanish and Italian, sprinkled with a smattering of Jar Jar Binks-isms and the occasional 'yakitori' or 'pachinko' — is not my idea of fun. I, too, once enjoyed the Minions, in the small doses that they came in. But the extra-strength 'Minions' is, for better or for worse, too much of a good thing."

The Boston Globe's Tom Russo similarly muses that maybe the minions "need that interplay with their old supervillain boss Gru [Carell] more than their creators realized. While kids will probably get enough of an eye-candy rush to get through the movie without complaint, this is one of the more disappointing animated event releases in recent memory."

The opening is promising, Russo says, and Coffin — doing double duty as co-director and voice of the minions — "does nice work giving them distinguishable identities." But as the critters "skitter through a couple of acts' worth of noisy, tediously generic action … you'll have to appreciate what fleeting cleverness you can."

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