China adds postscript to ‘Minions’ showing crime doesn’t pay

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BEIJING — The latest “Minions” movie subtly reinforces a message for Chinese audiences that viewers in other countries won’t see: Crime doesn’t pay.

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A postscript added to the version in Chinese cinemas states that a villainous character, who ends the film as a free man, is then imprisoned for 20 years.

Foreign films have long been targeted in China for their references to sensitive topics for the ruling Communist Party, such as Taiwan, the Dalai Lama and human rights. In recent years, the Chinese Film Board seems to have widened its scope to ensure that films convey the right message, and not a message deemed harmful.

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This can be a challenge in a film in which the central character is a villain. “Minions: The Rise of Gru” is a prequel that tells the story of the early years of Gru, the bumbling criminal plotter from the animated series “Despicable Me”.

The solution: add individual character postscripts, a series of them, interspersed with the credits at the end.

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One says that Wild Knuckles, an older villain, like a mentor to young Gru, was later imprisoned for 20 years because he tried to commit another crime. Before the credits, it simply goes off into a suburban skyline.

Gru’s postscript says he forsakes evil, joins the good guys, and in his greatest achievement is the father of three daughters.

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The actual story, told in the original “Despicable Me” in 2010, is a bit more complicated. Gru adopts three orphaned girls for his plot to steal the moon. But the adorable orphans, who see him as a dad, melt his heart of ice.

Chinese movie bloggers pointed to the added postscripts in social media posts, prompting various reactions. Some people said the additions were an overreaction to what is an animated comedy. Others said they demonstrated correct values, especially for children.

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“I think the ending with positive energy shouldn’t exist at all,” said movie buff Jenny Jian. “It’s totally unnecessary.”

Positive energy is a slogan that emerged in China a decade ago and was promoted by the Communist Party to convey uplifting messages from the media and the arts, according to the China Media Project, which monitors media trends.

The China Film Administration, which oversees the film board, did not respond to questions sent by fax. The distributors, China Film Co and Huaxia Film Distribution Co., did not respond to emails.

China does not have a movie rating system that rates a movie’s suitability for different audiences. Instead, authorities are asking producers to remove or edit what they deem inappropriate before films are approved for release.

“Minions: The Rise of Gru,” which has grossed 114 million yuan ($17 million) since opening in China on Aug. 19, isn’t the first time Chinese authorities have altered a film’s ending.

In “Peppermint,” a 2018 film about a vigilante, the title character is handcuffed to a hospital bed. A friendly detective slips him a key and, in the final scene, the bed is empty with the handcuffs opening on its railing.

The truncated Chinese version ends with her still in bed, before she gets the key.

– Associated Press press assistant Caroline Chen contributed to this report.

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