Never read a review before seeing something about which you have no choice. Adults & children seeing a film aimed squarely at a child? Best to be a child or to be like a child.
In Matthew 18:3 Jesus says “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
No i wasn’t thinking deep spiritual thoughts, but this is what I channeled today seeing Minions, the prequel to the Despicable Me films, and is the only way to approach such a film.
Minions is good.
The little guys are funny.
I did not expect to laugh.
It is the same joke
Over and over.
That is not a problem
Not if you are six years old.
I miss being six. I miss living in the now.
What’s so good about being able to say “that’s not funny?” For Wagner I need the big words. For Hitchcock I need the fancy ideas.
Not for this.
This is a giggle.
Tickle the dog.
Get your face licked.
Wet and messy.
When I engage the part of my brain with the bigger words I start to think, hmm, what exactly are minions and why might this be a troubling series of lessons? Minions are slaves, workers, and have no individuality or even gender. That is probably fine when you are six, but if you were a minion? I cherish my individuality, and am more than just my function in the huge impersonal machine of production.
That the minions all speak a kind of gibberish is on the verge of being disturbing. The cute sounds they make have precedents. The little dudes in Star Wars films are often cute-sounding. In the first film we meet the Jawas, in a later film it’s the Ewoks.
What exactly are we laughing at, if we are laughing at them, I wonder. This is no time to be over-thinking the codes for cute and cuddly, the reasons for fun.
At least not yet.
Is Minions a project designed to make lots of money? Yes. I am wary, as if I were consuming a genetically modified apple, wondering what I am tasting and why I am liking it. What is this doing to my brain, and even more scary to contemplate: what is this doing to the brains of six-year-olds?
I fear the attraction because I do not like being manipulated. When Wagner or Hitchcock do it—manipulation –I am fine with it. Great artists screw with our heads all the time. Commercial products with no apparent redeeming value, however, are a different story.
If it were a better piece of art I might surrender fully, the way I do in the presence of a really luscious brownie or sticky toffee pudding. Calories be damned give me sweetness laden with fat! But there are two things that stopped my surrender as surely as a badly executed harmonization. One was my resistance to Sandra Bullock as the lead villainess. I experienced this as an actor trying to work against type which is usually fine onscreen if you can make me believe. Why did I resist? I hate to think I am sticking Bullock into a mental category, stubbornly refusing to see her as a possible villain; but in my defense, I have to say animation is different. We are not in the realm where we can see the performance, and if the voice is too subtle –and that is the nicest thing I can say for her—then it simply won’t fly (and for me it didn’t).
The other issue is writing. At times I felt I was watching filler, a cartoon that could have been over in less than half an hour. I won’t deny that a couple of times I almost fell asleep. That might also be an issue for Bullock, who can’t be faulted for failing to transcend the material.
But I did laugh, especially when i remembered to pay attention to the children. It is funny once you surrender to the spirit of the little child in you, because at that moment you may be surprised that you are screaming with laughter. This is decidedly unlike Inside Out, which was full of big laughs that the adults got and the kids did not.
If you see this film, the only thing to remember is what Jesus said via Matthew. Forget everything else.