I love the Minions. I thought they deserved their own movie. But I was wrong. Turns out, the Minions are better off without a backstory. Their mystery was part of their charm. Their Minion-ness is essential to their humor. And none of that is present here.
Oh, Minions is fine for kids. They'll laugh at the slapstick antics of the yellow blobs and have a fine time, probably. But the biological evolution of the Minions, which opens the film, makes me wonder how they could have sexual reproduction when they all appear to be male. The cultural history of the Minions—driven to find the biggest, baddest villains to serve and worship until accidentally killing them with their bumbling over-enthusiasm—ends after Napoleon. What, they couldn't have done the planet a favor and latched onto Hitler?
After mysteriously sitting out the bloodiest decades of human history with the worst villains ever, the Minions re-emerge in 1968 to seek a new Big Boss. Minion scouts Kevin, Bob and Stuart (all voiced by director Pierre Coffin) settle on the world's first female supervillain, Scarlet Overkill (voice of Sandra Bullock), who plans to take over the British monarchy, which allows for lots of poking fun at Englishness. Coffin is French, so you're watching a lot of ethnic-humor payback happening here. Some of it is even mildly amusing; it's not exactly the height of cruelty to suggest that the Brits drink a lot of tea.
Minions on the whole is mildly cute, but the Minions kind of don't work as the heroes. The movie demands that they behave in an un-Minion-like manner which is entirely contrary to why we fell in love with them in the first place. Can't we just let Minions be minions? And not know so much about them? Please?