A film critic must be able to receive criticism themselves. And if you review kids movies, odds are you will hear the same criticism one or two thousand times...

“It’s a movie for children, not for adults, much less critics. So who cares what they think?”

Now I should say first of all: I care. A good film critic knows way more about movies, even kids movies, than a kid. For one thing, they’ve seen a lot more of them. They can put a new movie in a historical context, analyze its themes, consider its visual style, and examine its vocal performances. Even if they’re not the film’s target audience.

That said ... it is interesting to consider how a film works or doesn’t work for its target audience. And in the case of kids movies, I live with two members of that target audience every day of my life. My eight year old and six year old daughters love going to the movies, although if I’m being honest, I think that’s mostly because the theater is the only place they get to eat popcorn and chug ICEEs before dinner. Still, when the invite to a Despicable Me 4 screening came in, I was a lot more curious to know what they would think of it than what I would think of it. (I’ve reviewed several of these movies at this point; the odds my opinion of this one would differ wildly from the previous installments seemed slim.)

Over some post-screening pizza, I grilled my kids about their reactions to the film. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation; as you will see, it is only very lightly edited...

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Dad: So what did you guys think of the movie?

6 Year Old: My chair is wobbly.

Dad: You’ll be fine. So you liked the movie?

[6 Year Old gestures thumbs up]

Dad: You liked it?

6 Year Old: Yup.

Dad: What was your favorite part?

8 Year Old: All year once I had a chair that wobbled. And a table that wobbled. But it was fine.

6 Year Old: My favorite part was when they turned the normal Minions into super Minions.

Dad: They were like superhero Minions. That was cute. Which was the best one?

8 Year Old: The one that was good ... uh...

Dad: Can I guess which you liked the best? The one that was like a big rock guy who had really powerful burps that sent out giant shockwaves. Like super burps.

8 Year Old: [laughs] Yeah. That was like Mommy.

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Dad: Did you guys like Gru’s baby?

8 Year Old: Gru’s baby was cute.

6 Year Old: Yeah.

Dad: Did he remind you of anyone?

8 Year Old: No?

Dad: Do you remember the movie The Incredibles?

6 Year Old: No.

Dad: It’s been a while since we watched it. The Incredibles is about a family of superheroes instead of supervillains, but they have a baby named Jack-Jack who kind of looks like Gru’s baby and sometimes causes trouble like Gru’s baby. We’ll have to rewatch that.

6 Year Old: [pointing at a nearby table] Someone’s smoking!

Dad: That’s fine. They’re not bothering us. Did you have a favorite scene?

6 Year Old: I liked when she broke her sensei’s pinky toe! [Ed. note: One of Gru’s daughters takes karate lessons from a pompous sensei; wackiness ensues.]

Dad: You enjoyed when the children caused physical harm to the grownups, why am I not surprised?

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Dad: What did you think of the bad guy [Will Ferrell as Maxime Le Mal, a former classmates of Gru’s who wants to get revenge against him, and also has used mad science to turn himself into a human/cockroach hybrid]?

6 Year Old: Blech.

Dad: Blech, right? He was weird.

8 Year Old: Cockroach Man! Weird.

6 Year Old: He liked cockroaches.

Dad: I admit I didn’t quite understand how he became a giant cockroach. He experimented on himself?

8 Year Old: Yes.

Dad: That’s how they explained it?

8 Year Old: Probably.

Dad: Probably. I thought he was maybe a little scary for a kids movie. Too scary or it was okay?

6 Year Old: It was okay. It wasn’t my favorite part.

Dad: Not your favorite part? I was going to ask you ... no no no, dude you’ve got to pick up the pizza. If you try to eat it without picking it up you’re going to accidentally eat your plate. [deep sigh] Okay. Did you like this better than the other Despicable Me or Minions movies?

6 Year Old: I don’t remember them.

8 Year Old: I don’t remember them, but this one was really good.

6 Year Old: I gotta say, I thought the Minions would be funnier. Although I did like when the guy got stuck in the refrigerator for the whole movie!

Dad: You mean in the vending machine?

6 Year Old: Yeah.

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8 Year Old: I think I liked when ... when ... um ... when I liked... [long pause]

Dad: ... There was a part you liked?

8 Year Old: Yeah, I can’t remember.

6 Year Old: Was it when when they took the wrong bag? [laughs hysterically]

8 Year Old: Oh! I know something I liked!

Dad: Okay, what was it?

8 Year Old: When Gru’s baby kept popping balloons.

Dad: Oh yeah, you did laugh really loud at that.

6 Year Old: Every time Gru calmed down, his baby kept scaring him!

Dad: Yeah, just when you’re relaxing, that’s when babies start to cry. They don’t pop balloons, but they always find a way to freak out at the worst moment. When you were babies, I always felt like any time I would relax for even a second — like if I put you to bed, and then I would sit down put my feet up, that’s the moment you would go “WAAAAAAH!” and I would have to go help you.

6 Year Old: [laughs] That’s funny.

Dad: Not to me. Not to me.

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Universal Pictures

6 Year Old: Do you have any water?

8 Year Old: I’m thirsty!

Dad: I’ve got your waters, I’ve got your waters... so did the school that Gru went to as a kid remind you of any place?

8 Year Old: Hogwarts?

Dad: That’s exactly what I thought! I thought they wanted it to look like Hogwarts.

8 Year Old: I don’t think so.

Dad: You don’t think so?

8 Year Old: It was a school for villains.

Dad: Sure, but the outside looked like it. We’ll agree to disagree there. So did this one make you want to go back and rewatch the other Despicable Me movies again?

6 Year Old: You know the answer.

Dad: No I don’t. Tell me.

6 Year Old: [screams at full volume directly in my face] YES!

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Universal Pictures

Dad: What was better: This or Harry Potter [and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which we just watched for the first time a few weeks ago]?

8 Year Old: [in posh English accent] Harry Pott-ah.

6 Year Old: Uhhh...

8 Year Old: Harry Potter is longer.

Dad: What’s better: This or Ghostbusters?

6 Year Old: Ghostbusters!

8 Year Old: Ghostbusters. That’s a hard question.

6 Year Old: What about Matilda [the Musical, which we have watched countless times]?

Dad: Okay, what about this or Matilda?

6 Year Old and 8 Year Old Simultaneously: Matilda.

Dad: All right, let’s keep eating our pizza guys. What about Is It Cake? or this?

6 Year Old: Is It Cake?!

8 Year Old: Is It Cake?, duh.

6 Year Old: I barely drank my water during the movie!

Dad: Well now you can drink it with your pizza.

8 Year Old: Matilda is like the best movie ever.

Dad: That’s the best movie ever? [To the 6 Year Old] What’s your favorite movie ever?

6 Year Old: Hold on. I want to ask you a question.

Dad: Wait, before you ask can you just answer—

6 Year Old: Wait, I just want to ask her something first.

Dad: [sighs] Go ahead.

6 Year Old: Matilda or Pokémon?

8 Year Old: Which Pokémon?

Dad: Matilda or Detective Pikachu?

[long pause]

Dad: That’s a tough one, huh?

6 Year Old: Wait, I have question: Would you rather meet Ash and Pikachu or meet Matilda and Miss Honey?

8 Year Old: Ash and Pikachu.

Dad: Wow, this is getting very elaborate. But I still want to know: What is your favorite movie?

6 Year Old: In the whole world?

Dad: Yeah.

6 Year Old: I gotta say...

8 Year Old: I actually want to meet Violet and Matilda.

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Dad: If you could rewatch any movie right now, what would you pick?

8 Year Old: Oh I know. Hogwarts!

Dad: You mean Harry Potter?

8 Year Old: Harry Potter, yeah.

6 Year Old: That’s not what I would pick.

Dad: What would you pick?

6 Year Old: Minions 4!

Dad: Minions 4? You mean the movie we just saw?

6 Year Old: Yeah. It was good.

Dad: Really? I kept looking over at you, I didn’t see you laughing much at all.

6 Year Old: You’re crazy.

8 Year Old: She was probably laughing in her head. She didn’t want to disturb anyone else.

Dad: Is that true? You found it funny, but you didn’t laugh out loud because you didn’t want to disturb anyone?

6 Year Old: Um, that’s a good question. Is that a good answer? Dad look. Beep beep beep!

Dad: What are you doing?

6 Year Old: Beep beep beep!

Dad: You guys are weird.

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Dad: When the movie first started, you both complained that the sound was too loud. Did it stay too loud the whole time or was it okay once you got used to it?

6 Year Old: It was really loud.

8 Year Old: It was fine once I got used to it.

6 Year Old: Once I got used to it, I liked it. [to sister] Oh! Quick question: Would you rather meet Detective Pikachu and the person who didn’t believe in Pokémon orrrrrr would you rather meet Harry Potter —

8 Year Old: Harry Potter! You know the answer.

Dad: Were there any good inventions in this movie? Usually in Despicable Me movies there are all sorts of silly gadgets.

6 Year Old: I was really impressed how they made the giant... uh...

Dad: Cockroach?

6 Year Old: Cockroach, yeah.

Dad: That was kind of gross.

8 Year Old: The guy really liked cockroaches. He said it.

Dad: That’s true. Well, I guess he was saying that cockroaches are really tough and hard to kill.

6 Year Old: Ants die if you step on them.

Dad: What did you think of the villain’s reason for hating Gru?

6 Year Old: What was the reason?

Dad: Nevermind.

6 Year Old: Oh! I’ll tell you my least favorite character.

Dad: I want to hear this; who was your least favorite character?

6 Year Old: My least favorite character was the girlfriend.

Dad: You mean Gru’s wife [voiced by Kristen Wiig]? The woman with red hair?

6 Year Old: Yes. No wait! I mean the enemy’s girlfriend [voiced by Sofia Vergara]?

Dad: Oh okay, the woman with the big glasses. Why was she your least favorite?

6 Year Old: Because she didn’t care about anything!

Dad: You make a good point. Most of the time when they showed her she just huffed about whatever the other characters were doing.

6 Year Old: And also when they were singing, she was just putting on lipstick. I was like “Eh.”

Dad: You’re right. That was kind of her whole character.

6 Year Old: She wasn’t that funny.

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8 Year Old: Oh! I remember what I was going to say!

Dad: From like 10 minutes ago?

8 Year Old: Yes.

6 Year Old: I know another of my least favorite characters!

Dad: Well, hold on, I want to hear what your sister has to say before she forgets again. Go. Tell me.

8 Year Old: So. It was when the guy was at the cash register got turned into a cockroach.

Dad: You liked that?

8 Year Old: He was acting all weird! It was silly. [looking under pizzeria table] Hey! The table has pipes underneath!

Dad: What do you think was the lesson or the message of the movie?

8 Year Old: Um... family first.

Dad: Family first, that’s a good message.

6 Year Old: What does ‘Family first,’ mean?

8 Year Old: It means family is the most important thing.

6 Year Old: My leg is stuck!

Dad: Your leg is stuck? I think we’re going to have to amputate it.

6 Year Old: Oh, I got it out.

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