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Even without the language barrier, it’d be hard to argue with the Minions and their brand of breezy, light humor.

World Domination

If adventure has a name, it must be Kevin (middle)
If adventure has a name, it must be Kevin (middle)

Back when Despicable Me was released in 2010, Minion goodies and swag were hard to find. Clearly, Universal - and all of the movie’s makers, for that matter - was caught off guard by the movie’s success. Times have changed and now, 5 years later, there’s some juicy irony to observe that it’s the Minions who’ve attained world domination.

They’re everywhere. It’s product placement in reverse. The new movie itself has plenty of pop culture references, but it manages to shun the temptation to place branded products in those Minion mitts. Instead, the real world offers all sorts of products with Minions placement. Tic-Tacs. Haribo gummies. Swiffers. Brawny paper towels. Chiquita bananas (BANANAS!). That’s not to mention their appearance on virtually anything else that can be made my mere human minds and machinery.

Yes. Minions rule the world.

And that’s not such a bad thing.

It’s actually kinda heartening.

#BEEDO

It’s now openly recognized the Minions were the secret sauce in the diabolical success of Despicable Me and its cleverly titled sequel, Despicable Me 2.

In this prequel sporting an equally clever title, Minions, the titular characters get the back story treatment. Minions date back to the dawn of time and predate humanity. Their sole purpose in life has always been the same: To serve the most despicable master they can find.

That means T-Rex back in the days of the dinosaur. That includes the first caveman. Then history moves on to observe the minions at the Great Pyramids of Giza. They served vampires back in the Dark Ages and they were there at Waterloo.

All of those despicable masters met an untimely demise thanks to the - very well-meaning - assistance of the Minions. Ooops.

Without a master, their lives have no meaning. And the Minions certainly suffered through their own Ice Age, a listless, lifeless existence without a master to serve.

Thankfully, Kevin found his mojo and set out, with Bob and Stuart, to change all that. Next up in Minion history; New York City, 1968.

Keep Calm and Minion On

It would’ve been nice to stop and smell the roses, but the Minions through the ages portion of Minions is a fast-paced clip reel that hums right along and quickly brings the Minions up to more recent history, the 1960s. Unlike Terminator Genisys, Minions takes advantage of its retro time and place to poke fun at how things were “back in the day.”

It’s in mighty Manhattan where the Minions first sport those now-famous blue overalls. And it’s there they get the first taste of modern human despicability by way of a television set in a department store. An old school antenna and the airwaves land them on a hidden channel for villains only (along with homages to Bewitched and The Dating Game).

The rest, as they say is history. Kevin, Stuart, and Bob set off for Orlando and a little something called Villain-Con, where they meet their destiny, Scarlett Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock, Gravity). From there, the despicable crew sets off for London, on a mission to steal Queen Elizabeth’s crown.

At first blush, Minions, with all its lighthearted ways, seems almost too light, particularly in comparison to its summertime Pixar counterpart, Inside Out. Minions doesn’t have the same emotional resonance, or even the strong human element and heartfelt grounding of the two Despicable Me movies, but it does set out on its own course of mayhem and fun.

Outside In

Gratuitous Minions image
Gratuitous Minions image

Possibly the most pleasant surprise about Minions is its mining of 1960s pop culture for some nice visual gags and references. It’s the kind of material that’ll go waaay over the heads of children, theoretically the “target audience.” But Minions transcend the ages just like they do the eras.

Those moments are when a touch of the somewhat subversive — such as the dethroned Queen tipping pints at a pub called the Pig & Spleen, and happy little gags involving the Beatles and the Monkees — give Minions its own identity.

Warhol, Hendrix, Hair, tie dyes — they all find a spot in the Minions’ colorful world.

And, in keeping with the antics of the Despicable movies, the Minions save some of their best goofiness for last, as in after the end credits. The Minions’ take on the Beatles’ Revolution becomes a showcase of effective 3D and it sends audiences out on a feel-good high note.