November 02, 2010

Megamind

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A movie review by James Berardinelli



Megamind

ANIMATED:

United States, 2010

U.S. Release Date:

2010-11-05

Running Length:

1:36

MPAA Classification:

PG

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

1.85:1

Cast:

(voices) Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, Brad Pitt, David Cross

Director:

Tom McGrath

Screenplay:

Alan Schoolcraft & Brent Simons

Music:

Lorne Balfe, Hans Zimmer

U.S. Distributor:

Dreamworks Animation

Subtitles:

none


[Seen in "standard" (non-IMAX) 3-D.]

Megamind is largely what one might expect from an animated movie featuring a number of notable comedians in voice roles: an amusing diversion. A soft satire of superhero films (one that's less clever than either Pixar's The Incredibles or Universal's more recent Despicable Me), Megamind falls into the second tier animated category. It's not on the same level as Pixar's best but is a perfectly acceptable family feature with a lively pace and sufficient cartoonishness to engage children while not boring their accompanying parents to death.

Superman references abound from the beginning, as little Megamind (voice of Will Ferrell) is sent to Earth in a space capsule to escape a dying planet. Later, there's a more explicit nod to the 1978 movie as Will Ferrell performs a credibly fatuous Marlon Brando impersonation (adults will get this; kids will not, but it doesn't matter). Megamind, who has blue skin and a big head, isn't the only alien to arrive on our planet. At the same time, the boy who will grow up to become Metro Man shows up in a superior capsule. He's a clean-cut, all-American kid whose adult version has the squarest jaw imaginable and sounds like George Clooney (even though his voice is provided by Brad Pitt). Megamind becomes the supervillain arch-nemesis to Metro Man's superhero. Their battles, which often begin with Megamind capturing TV news reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey), typically end with Metro Man carting Megamind off to jail. Then, suddenly one day, one of Megamind's schemes works and Metro City loses its hero. After a brief period of exultation, Megamind comes to a stunning realization: without Metro Man, there's little point to his existence. The ying to his yang is gone; there's no more salt to his pepper. So he sets about creating a new superhero out of a schlub cameraman named Hal (Jonah Hill). Hal, however, is a shallow, self-absorbed individual and the experiment doesn't go as planned - imagine giving the abilities of a god to a creepy, introverted dweeb.

It's evident from the content that Will Ferrell either had an uncredited hand in writing the script or did a fair amount of ad-libbing. Some of the comedy and more than a few of Megamind's lines have the comedian's fingerprints all over them (such as the frequent mispronunciation of words). Obviously, given the PG rating, none of the humor is off-color, but it is frequently sophomoric and, as such, generally works within the context of an animated movie. In general, Megamind's comedy is effective although not hilarious. This is more a movie of smiles than belly-laughs. The "dramatic" elements, such as Megamind's conversion from villain to hero, provoke little emotional reaction. That aspect prevents Megamind from ascending to the upper echelon of animated motion pictures.

The images are composed to titillate the eye. A dark, rain-drenched scene is breathtaking in both detail and impact. The 3-D is innocuous. The movie does not suffer from blurring but there is a reduction in the vibrancy of colors. The 3-D occasionally calls attention to itself by hurling something in the direction of the viewer but, for the most part, it's unobtrusive enough not to be a distraction. Since it neither enhances nor detracts from the experience, why pay the surcharge? The movie should play equally well in 2-D (if it can be found playing in 2-D).

Megamind will succeed at the box office. It has been assembled by Tom McGrath, who made Madagascar and Madagascar 2, both of which were popular with families. If anything, Megamind boasts a smarter, sharper screenplay and doesn't play as aggressively to the youngest potential members of the audience. The voice acting by Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt (sounding, as mentioned above, like a puffed-up George Clooney), Tina Fey, and Jonah Hill is top-notch; the music (mostly '80s heavy metal) is well-selected; and the style is clean and uncluttered. It's a pleasant if unspectacular animated motion picture that will appeal to a variety of viewers.

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