Starring Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Brad Pitt
Any movie that attempts to “tug at my heartstrings” is already at a massive disadvantage. This is why most animated films have to work that much harder to elicit a real reaction from me. Eye candy. Junk food for the mind. Flashing lights and sounds designed to distract kids for a few hours. A genre that makes most its money on DVD, so parents can throw on the latest animated lark and keep their kids zoned out while they get a little tipsy on moderately priced white wine.
Is there artistry going on in this medium? Maybe. I’ve softened on the genre as a whole, mostly because of the chop-socky Looney Tunes-inspired animation coming out of DreamWorks. The best animated film this year was “How To Train Your Dragon”—a movie that defied explanation and managed to work as entertainment without devolving into cheap melodrama. It was, dare I say, an intelligent animated film “that worked for kids and adults.” “Megamind doesn’t have such noble goals. This is the kind of goofy, lighthearted fare that cartoons were created for—a ridiculous comic-book-inspired tale of a super villain fighting to get his groove back.
Megamind (Will Ferrell) is an orphaned alien sent away from his home planet to Earth via rocket ship. Simultaneously, another baby from another planet is sent to Earth, and a rivalry forms. Megamind’s gigantic blue melon winds up in a prison, while the cuter baby ends up in the home of a loving family. “Big Blue” has a knack for destruction and mayhem, and eventually becomes the world‘s greatest supervillain: Megamind. His arch nemesis develops a Superman-like persona named “Metroman” (Brad Pitt) and becomes the hero of the city.
Their rivalry is epic, though fairly one-sided. Megamind isn’t nearly as menacing as he believes. Metroman always seems to get the better of him, no matter how diabolical the plot. But, one day the game changes. Megamind hatches another one of his doomsday scenarios and succeeds. He destroys his rival. Metro City’s greatest hero is gone. Without a nemesis, he begins to question his place in the world. His focus falls to spunky gal reporter Roxanne Ritchie (Tina Fey), who he courts under an alter ego. Like all his plans, it eventually goes wrong. With no schemes left to hatch, Megamind decides he has to create a new nemesis. This does not go well.
“Megamind” works as a gag film. It moves at breakneck speed inspired by the classic animated works of Chuck Jones and Friz Freeling; momentum-based comedy that only stops working when the characters stop moving. Like most family films, there’s a few labored scenes of heartwarming goo and lessons to be learned by the main characters, like Megamind realizing that people can change and are not bound by perception. Just because the world believes in villains doesn’t mean it can’t change. Isn’t that sweet? Everybody holding hands, smiling, laughing, singing la-de-freakin’-da! I prefer the children’s stories where the mean old witch gets shoved in the oven, and the children learn not to trust strangers through stories of crippling fear. I suppose it’s too much to ask DreamWorks to animate something like that.
Yet, I still had a good time at “Megamind,” mainly because the “gag” to “making me gag” ratio was about 4 to 1. Will Ferrell does a fantastic job in the lead role. The man has a way with wacky. Somehow Tina Fey seems more realistic in an animated film than she does in real life. The rest of the cast performs adequately; though, I am officially done with Jonah Hill. His monotone slur has infected enough films, and I think it’s time for us to scream, “Enough, boring fat man!”
My complaint, like clockwork, always falls back to the limited range of stories being told within the medium. We know what these animators and studios are capable of amazing visuals. However, the stories are becoming redundant in tone and story (like Jonah Hill). “Megamind” could easily be grouped with this year’s other animated villain movie “Despicable Me,” and we could loosely associate both of those film’s with Pixar’s “The Incredibles.”
At some point, the envelope will need to be pushed. It might be awhile. Walt Disney spent 50 years churning out the same basic movie to the delight of children everywhere—children other than me. I was never infected by the Disney magic, and I have a hard time with the concept that generations of children are being pandered to in such an unoriginal way.
Despite my always-entertaining rants on studios treating children like morons, I still can recommend “Megamind.” It’s fun, well put together and a nice, flashy distraction. It does nothing to further the medium; it is the definition of “average.”