Billion dollar baby.

Minions made $1.1 billion worldwide. So my mom and I figured, “okay, this must have something redeeming in it.” I should’ve remembered that Spectre isn’t too far off the billion dollar mark, and we know my feelings about that mess.

Past a clever opening sequence that charts the evolution of the minions as a species, the film is a confounding comedy of errors, except it’s absent of comedy and full of errors. I get that it’s targeted at children, but it doesn’t even have the redeeming cuteness that typically merits forgiveness for the kind of movie that might otherwise be vacuous. But let’s be real, this isn’t a children’s movie, in that it’s made for the benefit of children. It’s a commercial cash cow. An exploitative marketing scheme. The audience’s reception isn’t the bottom line, the studio’s profit is. So goodbye to any authentic artistic endeavor or possible dialogue between artist and audience. This is a cold capital transaction, nothing more. No wonder my mom and I felt so numb. What’s impressive then are films that manage to fulfill commercial and artistic potential. (Pixar obviously stands out. They are no less trying to make money, but they’re also creating masterpieces, not simply manufacturing products.)

As a counter to my criticism, this piece made me rethink how I received The Force Awakens. It’s shamelessly commercial too, and yet…I loved it. What’s at stake in my view with Star Wars that isn’t with Minions? More on that another time.

A brief final thought: what message are we meant to take away from Minions? How are we supposed to feel about these Spanish-Italian-gibberish speaking immigrants from the arctic? Are we meant to – yet again – internalize the despicable hegemony of “knowing our place?” Are some of us just naturally subordinate? Well, if you’re a yellow, uncivilized, obsequious foreigner, yep! And let’s not restore just any social order. No. Let’s make sure it’s the British Empire. Put the Queen back where she belongs, then return to your business of obeying another Master. What a touching tale of racial supremacy! And if we go by the box office results, we’re all endorsing it! Hooray!

It turns out Bond and the minions have more in common than box office success.


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