The Minions are the most obnoxious characters in all of modern creative fiction. The fact that these hideous yellow Temazepam demons are now running the planet is proof enough that Hollywood thinks very little of the kids in the audience. Or maybe they just hate parents. Whichever it is, a quarter-century from now when you’re lamenting the dumbed-down cinematic tastes of the adults paying to see the action-infused Bambi reboot (told from the point of view of the hunters), remember the Despicable Me franchise. I’m holding Universal and Illumination responsible for force-feeding this generation the most base and dire “entertainments” currently playing on movie screens across the globe.
Obviously, this trend isn’t a recent one. But the fact remains that movies about a lopsided Charles Addams action figure and his army of medicine have now raked in over a billion dollars at the box office. People love these damn things. And children are going to grow up thinking this is as good as movies ever have to get. They don’t deserve that.
This is a film that has no idea what it’s supposed to be about, what point it’s trying to make or, really, who its target audience even is. An early joke aimed squarely at Pixar is rendered irrelevant later on when a billboard advertising a children’s film called Onions is featured in the background of a shot. The Onions of the title are little bug-eyed goggled creatures. The main antagonist is the living embodiment of an ’80s joke. He’s into Van Halen, Nena, Rubik’s cubes and “The A-Team.” He wields a keytar and moonwalks all over everything. It’s a weirdly sexist and misogynist film as well, to the extent that the filmmakers have any point of view on display at all. Its character designs gave me 35mm projection nightmare flashbacks, as every new figure to appear on screen is stretched in one direction or another to the point that I thought someone in the booth had swapped lenses between shots, particularly in the way this issue ties into the archaic depiction of women in the film. One is introduced with long legs, a huge butt and large breasts, only to turn around and reveal a big beak of a nose. The female “lead” is obsessed with motherhood. Who are these jokes for? What, in fact, are any of these jokes supposed to mean to the five-year-olds watching?
I get it. It’s a kids movie. But aren’t there kids movies featuring characters in blackface? And a decade-plus of Warner Bros. shorts featuring dangerously anti-Japanese themes? And just racist cartoons in general? We don’t show these to our kids anymore. We see them now as history lessons. Outside of the quality of the film itself, Despicable Me 3 fits into an ongoing trend of filmmaking that says, “Lighten up, kids think it’s funny.” But kids like cute things, so to package material this weird and gross and bonkers in a little yellow plush toy of a movie is the opposite of what good cinema is supposed to do.