Wednesday, November 3, 2010
"Megamind" is in the unfortunate position of being the second animated movie this year where a super-villain plays the hero (or at least the main character). "Despicable Me" was a disappointment, but the sheer fact it came out first inevitably gives "Megamind" a patina of staleness.
Not that it isn't a wonder for the eyes. The animators at DreamWorks are now on par with the wizards at Pixar, and everything about it visually is a triumph. I especially liked the various robot contraptions built by the blue-skinned, big-skulled mad scientist title character, which have a clunky, mid-century retro look reminiscent of "The Iron Giant."
For those convinced the 3-D fad is just an excuse to squeeze a few extra dollars out of ticket-buyers: I saw "Megamind" in IMAX 3-D and can report that the layered effects were especially sharp and crystal-clear. I can't say as the film would be much diminished by seeing it on a regular screen, though.
The set-up is a takeoff on the old Superman origin, with a babe being blasted off his dying planet to find greatness on Earth. The tweak here is that in addition to lantern-jawed hero Metro Man (voiced by Brad Pitt), another infant traveled through space at the same time on a parallel course, setting up their lifelong enmity.
"Even Fate picks its favorites," Megamind (Will Ferrell) intones during the opening narration, and it's not hard to see why he thinks so. Instead of being endowed with awesome strength, laser vision and the ability to fly, Megamind was born with a big ol' noggin that made him an outcast at school.
While Metro Man landed in a rich couple's home and had everything handed to him, Megamind's spaceship splatted into a prison where he grew up educated by career criminals. Megamind also has the requisite minion, named Minion (David Cross), who's actually a fish whose bowl is connected to a robot exo-skeleton that for some reason resembles a gorilla.
I can't say as I'm the biggest fan of Ferrell's comedic abilities, but I thought his voice work here was proficient. His Megamind has a preening, boastful cadence, and has a tendency to mispronounce commonly used words. (For example, "Metro City" rhymes with "ferocity.")
Tina Fey voices Roxanne Ritchi, who exists in the comic book tradition of plucky, alliteratively-named girl reporters.
The next part of this review contains a spoiler, but since it happens so early in the film, and is so central to the story, I feel compelled to comment upon it.
After years of very public battles, Megamind suddenly is able to defeat his nemesis, annihilating Metro Man with his sun-powered death laser. But without an arch-enemy to fight, he finds himself growing bored. So he stumbles upon a plan to create a new hero by infusing some schlub with Metro Man's powers.
Unfortunately, he chooses Hal (Jonah Hill), Roxanne's lovesick dweeb cameraman, turning him into a rampaging mass of muscles called Titan. For reasons never explained, Titan changes this to Tighten.
Anyway, Tighten decides that being a hero is for chumps and starts tearing up Metro City, leaving Megamind to act the hero to keep things in order. Also, he begins a sneaky romance with Roxanne abetted by one of his nefarious gizmos.
"Megamind" was directed by Tom McGrath, who helmed the "Madagascar" movies, from a script by rookie screenwriters Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons. It's reasonably entertaining, though aimed more at the single-digit-age crowd than most such fare.
But in this golden age of "Toy Story 3" and "How to Train Your Dragon," Megamind looks like second-tier goods.
2 stars out of four