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Megamind: IMAX 3D (2010) **

November 6, 2010

written by: Alan J. Schoolcraft & Brent Simons
produced by: Lara Breay, Ben Stiller,  Denise Nolan Cascino
directed by: Tom McGrath
rated PG (for action and some language)
98 min.
U.S. release date: November 5, 2010
Dreamworks Animation SKG, Inc. has come a long way since 1999’s “Antz”, the studio’s first animated feature film that put them in direct competition with Pixar. They’ve given us the uber-successful “Shrek” and “Madagascar” films and now they’re taking a crack at the superhero genre, perfect for the crisp and stunning animation they’ve delivered so far. “Megamind” is the second movie this year that focuses on a supervillain, attempting to add new dimensions and layers to a character audiences are generally asked to boo and hiss at. The animation is impeccable (especially in IMAX 3D) and the talented cast is predominately spot-on, so it’s too bad there isn’t something more epic here or at least consistently funny here.
The story begins with an homage to the familiar Superman origin, as we see a blue-skinned infant alien jettisoned into outer space, away from his doomed planet. He wasn’t alone though. There was also another baby with the same escape plan from a nearby planet. Even as babies, spiraling toward our planet, we see that these exact opposites are destined to be rivals. Their time on Earth couldn’t be more different, the perfect-looking strong boy’s vessel lands into an affluent suburban home where everything is provided for him; whereas the gaunt blue boy lands in prison yard of Metrocity where he is raised by inmates, getting a set of bizarro right and wrong rules that plant the seed for his criminal career path.    
Realizing that the craftiness of this enormous young mind must have proper guidance, the Warden (J. K. Simmons) scuttles him off to a little red school-house down the street. At school, he is ridiculed for his appearance and upstaged by a handsome invulnerable caucasian boy with super-strength, heat-vision and the power of flight. He realizes that no matter what he does to be accepted or cool, he will always be dismissed and dejected. He decides to do what he does best and embrace evil, calling himself Megamind and initiating a war against justice, authority and that other boy, now called MetroMan.   
As the years pass, Metrocity comes to know MetroMan (Brad Pitt) and Megamind (Will Ferrell) as arch enemies, with their battles accruing collateral damage all over town. Time after time, Megamind’s massive intellect proves to be no match for MetroMan’s heroic confidence and strength. Their activity is often covered by reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey), with her cameraman Hal (Jonah Hill), often used by Megamind as bait. The world changes for everyone when one of Megamind’s schemes actually works, resulting in the death of MetroMan.
But with his yin and yang now gone, Megamind is left empty and realizes the cat-and-mouse routine he had going was fulfilling. It’s especially no fun wreaking havoc when the city has evacuated, well, except for determined Roxanne, of course. Sure, he still has his trusty sidekick, Minion (David Cross), yet the thrill of the fight and all the gizmos that he could create for battle are now gone. Depressed and distraught, the bubble-headed brainiac decides to create a do-gooding antagonist for himself. He infuses superhuman powers into hapless Hal (Jonah Hill) , thinking that this dolt would be MetroMan’s replacement and his life could carry on. He chose, poorly. Not thinking how an upgrade in power would affect the already neurotic and insecure Hal, Megamind must now see if he has it in him to be the anti-villain the city needs to stop his new destructive creation.
Director Tom McGrath is a man of many talents. He started out as a storyboard artist in animated films, did and still does some great voice acting work, and has directed the last two “Madagascar” movies. His movies are fun, exciting and silly. They are also usually appropriate for all ages, slipping in enough winks to pop culture for adults to be entertained as well. It’s unclear what demographic this one is aiming at. Older kids? Comic book fans? Will Ferrell fans? Maybe, if the writers would have made the message of “you can be anybody you want to be” more concise and obtainable. It just seems a tad convoluted for children to grasp. I’m not crazy about it but audiences in general will see just about any animated film and think it’s good cartoon fun for the kids. Not always the case.

I can deal with an inflated or convoluted plot in an animated film if the characters are still fun and the atmosphere is original, or at least appealing. The designers here created a sprawling city in Metrocity with amazing architecture. We primarily view it as we careen through the air with MetroMan or fall to our near-deaths like Roxanne or Megamind. It’s exhilarating to behold in 3D, even moreso on an IMAX screen. All of that is good entertainment right there.
The movie may excel in those visuals but gradually becomes annoying with its main character, and especially Titan, the superhero Megamind turns Hal into. Ferrell voices Megamind with an amusing (at first) British vagueness, purposely mispronouncing words like “school” or “melancholy”, and repeatedly says Metrocity like “atrocity”. It’s funny stuff. The first couple times. Then we get hit again and again and again with Ferrell being Ferrell, but it’s more like Ferrell-lite. I would preferred totally over-the-top Ferrell instead. If you like any kind of Ferrell, then here’s another one for you. I just didn’t find him funny after a while and he needed to be, in order to keep me in the film.
At least Megamind didn’t look exactly like the actual actor, giving viewers a chance to hear a somewhat familiar voice come out of a different face. That helps sell the character and instill him in the world being created. On the other hand, I have no idea why they decided to have Hal/Titan look exactly like Jonah Hill. Big mistake. It just became Jonah Hill in a superhero costume and if you’re gonna do that, then just make it a live-action Apatow vehicle. Every time he talked, I thought: Jonah Hill. His expressions, his hair, everything was: Jonah Hill. That in and of itself was a ripcord effect, pulling me out of the story to make me think of: Jonah Hill. At least the character spells his name: Tighten….from the air, all over the city with heat vision. That’s funny, right? Okay, I’ll stop. You get the idea.
They did do MetroMan right though. A Jon Hamm-looking (here’s your chance to see him in tights), lantern-jawed hero portrayed with bravado aloof by Brad Pitt. Now that is clever and funny and Pitt nails it. His under-explored character arc is interesting as well, then again this isn’t called “MetroMan”.  Tina Fey brings her fantastic timing here for a character that is unfortunately just another perky go-getter reporter. Lois Lane. I get it, but I kept thinking I could’ve had something different with this character.
All of these characters should have looked entirely different from the actors portraying them. I know creating the characters to look like the actors is often done in other animated films and I’m not a fan of it there either. The best way to sell an animated character is to let it live and breathe on the screen without drawing attention to who’s behind the curtain making it all happen. I guess Dreamworks doesn’t want to give the audience enough credit to be entertained without knowing who is playing who.
What also happens here is poor timing. We already had two sympathetic (emphasis on the pathetic) animated villains this year with Universal’s “Despicable Me” and Pixar’s “Toy Story 3” (the best part of Lotso bear was that we never saw him truly turn away from the dark side). This has happened before when “A Bug’s Life” came out the same year as “Antz” and “Finding Nemo” came out the same year as “A Shark’s Tale”. While Pixar was always superior in many ways, each still brought in revenue. Which is proof that the fact that there is “another supervillain movie” out won’t stop families from flocking to the theater to see it.
Another put off for me was all the pop cultural references needlessly injected into a film that could have soared on it’s on outrageous originality. How many times do we need to hear “Bad to the Bone” during a bad guy montage? How many times must we be subjected to hard-driving AC/DC tunes during massive explosions and heavy-hitting action (done earlier in “Iron Man 2”, thank you)? There’s even Michael Jackson, ELO and Guns n’ Roses thrown in for the heck of it, making the movie a veritable kitchen sink of unnecessary and overdone popular music. Again, it takes you out of the movie and steals attention from composers, Hanz Zimmer and Lorna Balfe.     
Who cares though, right? I doubt co-producer Ben Stiller does. It was no surprise to me that he was involved in this (he also voices Megamind’s alter-ego, Bernard) and I was extremely glad to learn that he passed on voicing Megamind. That would’ve been entirely too much to handle. I was surprised to find Justin Theroux and Gulillermo del Toro listed as Creative Consultants (I believe) during the end credits. Theroux, an actor who wrote the screenplay to “Iron Man 2” as well as “Tropic Thunder”, plays Megamind’s father here. Which leaves me to wonder what del Toro did here. Maybe he helped create Minion’s look, a fish in a hairy robot suit.  
“Megamind” juggles around the laughs and expected exposition, providing a story that will be ignored as audiences focus on the hilarity. It misses out though on the opportunity that could have been given for some great improv with this capable cast. As stated, McGrath does have a terrific grasp on the visuals but I wish he would’ve reigned in the script a bit. Writers Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons gave the film one too many wink-wink references from Donkey Kong, Karate Kid and Marlon Brando’s Jor-El. Unnecessary and, after a while, unfunny.
As a comic book fan and fair weather fan of Ferrell, I was hoping to like this fun movie much more. Overall, it was flat, predictable, and kind of annoying. If you find that you have to see this in a theater and you can swing it, check it out in IMAX 3D and then at least you’ll be getting the most out of the best from “Megamind”.     


12 Comments leave one →
  1. windi permalink
    November 6, 2010 3:10 pm

    I would have given it three stars myself. 2 seems kind of harsh. I do agree that the hard rock was annoying.

    We actually saw it in 2D. I think we might have liked it better in 3D but the boys said they didn’t miss the 3D action, so I guess that says something.

    I thought over all it was pretty cute, had some really funny lines, and I’m pretty my kids understood the ‘moral’ of the story. Of course they are very bright 9 and 11 year olds. I’m not sure this movie would be good for the under 8 crowd myself.

    I don’t remember what Jonah Hill looks like, so I didn’t realize that Titan looked acted and sounded like him. Obviously then, it didn’t bother me.

    The one thing that was weird, was that to me, Metroman looked and sounded like George Clooney! I know it was Brad Pitt, but I still kept thinking Clooney when I saw him! LOL

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      November 6, 2010 9:58 pm

      What can I say? People always say I’m too easy in my ratings but lately I guess I’m more inclined to feel….harsh….as you put it.
      Here’s what Jonah Hill looks like….


      • windi permalink
        November 10, 2010 10:32 pm

        ah, yes, I suppose he does look like his character, doesn’t he? haha.

  2. windi permalink
    November 6, 2010 3:11 pm

    oh yeah, I thought the eyes were kind of freaky, especially on megamind and Roxanne….so HUGE! haha

  3. mATtHEw gRAmITh permalink
    November 6, 2010 8:53 pm

    Just got back from the theatre. Saw MEGAMIND with my wife, baby, and 4 year old son. Our rural theatre doesn’t have 3D. I still have yet to see a 3D movie! Well, I saw FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 – IN 3D back in the day, but I don’t think it’s the same as the modern 3D.

    My son watched and mostly liked it, but got very fidgety about 2/3 of the way in. Since I had read a review and since it was rated PG, I kinda thought it would go that way. I was just relieved that he wasn’t completely out-of-control uninterested. About the same time that he became a bit bored, my wife leaned over to me and pointed out that most of the other kids were getting noisy, too. It did feel about 15 minutes too long.

    Even though I had read the review I forgot who played the title character and throughout the film couldn’t recognize Will Ferrell’s voice. So, for me it wasn’t a Will Ferrell movie. That probably made it easier for me to enjoy it, which I did, mostly. I liked the pop culture references. Liked the use of pop music (the NYTimes review probably prepped me to appreciate them), and definitely liked the existential themes. Like you David, I didn’t like that Hal/Tighten looked like an animated version of Jonah Hill, who voiced him. I also thought that his character was too simplistic, compared to the other characters in the movie, and compared to the story arc and themes.

    My wife pointed out that both this villain and the one in THE INCREDIBLES were red-headed freckled-faced guys. I wonder if that is a trend??? I hope not. If I had a red-haired child with freckles I would be even more irked.

    I didn’t mind that Tina Fey wasn’t funny or even interesting. Some exec probably figured if she could play the mother in PONYO, a part requiring some straight ol’ dramatic acting rather than comic timing, then she could play this part while also drawing in adults with her name. She was fine.

    All in all, I’d give it an A-, as an animated kid’s movie for adults. That’s right. It was only a matter of time before THAT genre developed. Otherwise, I don’t know who it’s perfect audience would be. The themes and most of the story were great. So was the dialogue. So was the animation. So was the acting. So was the choice of shots. Some of them were kind of amazing. It felt too long. The villain was annoying.

    It’s as good as any animated film out there that isn’t from Pixar.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      November 6, 2010 9:47 pm

      A movie like this shouldn’t lose my interest at all. Period. It shouldn’t pull me out of it at any point either. Period. This one did. Several times. So, that’s failure right there. You brought up “Ponyo” which is a good example of a movie that succeeds in all those areas. As for Tina Fey, I think she was great here (just as she was in “Ponyo”), I just think it’s unfortunate that they didn’t do more with her. At least make her a little less atypical. Ah well. I dunno why but the MetroMan character hit me just right. Owen Lieberman of Entertainment Weekly described him as a cross between Elvis and Mr. Incredible….that’s about right. He also compared Megamind to The Great Gazoo, from The Flintstones. Now that would be a great movie. I like the arc his character took. It seems that would be a natural progression for an alien, what with all the media coverage and constant adoration. You’re last sentence is dead-on. With this and “How to Train Your Dragon”, Dreamworks is having a great year. Beyond everything I touched on in my review, I just felt like I should’ve been laughing more.

  4. mATtHEw gRAmItH permalink
    November 6, 2010 10:51 pm

    We haven’t seen HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, yet. We’re looking forward to watching THE SECRET OF KELLS on Netflix soon.

    Actually, as for that last sentence in my other post – I guess I should add Miyazaki films to the list along with Pixar. I don’t know how I could have been writing about PONYO yet spaced on Miyazaki’s films.

    We saw the trailer for YOGI BEAR tonight. I can’t tell if it will be horrible or awesome! The “look” of the characters, particularly of Yogi and Boo Boo annoys me. So does the choice of Dan Ackroyd as Yogi. Something about it looks like it could be good, though. If I didn’t have children I’m sure I would never know. Crimony – posting about the YOGI BEAR movie! This is what happens when you have kids. I can’t believe I’m even remembering the trailer at all, let alone writing about it. I think I better go watch some obscure old foreign film now, just to make sure I still have half a brain.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      November 6, 2010 10:57 pm

      “Yogi Bear” looks atrocious but I would wager two things….1) It will do awesome at the box office 2) Justin Timberlake will be great too. Still, each time I see that trailer, I weep slightly for the future of the human race.

      • windi permalink
        November 10, 2010 10:30 pm

        I cringed through the whole preview of Yogi Bear. And after the movie, as we were leaving, Trevor pointed out to us that on the big huge poster for Yogi Bear, he looks downright evil. Yep! Both boys were kind of creeped out by it, so I don’t think we’ll be going to see that one….Thanks be to heaven! hahaha

  5. Tairy Greene permalink
    November 7, 2010 12:31 pm

    No interest in seeing this one. Thanks for sitting through it for the rest of us!

  6. windi permalink
    November 10, 2010 10:33 pm

    tonight, Calvin and I were bantering back and forth about something, and after a few minutes, Trevor goes “Girls! Girls! you are both pretty! Can I get some peace now?” we all cracked up at that one! :)~


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