DreamWorks famously committed to releasing a record three films in 2010 and has gone on to do so with mixed results. Katzenberg & Co. started out strong with How to Train Your Dragon but regressed to autopilot with Shrek Forever After and just flat ran out of steam with this latest project, which isn’t a revolting film by any means but isn’t exactly deserving of praise either. Much like Universal’s recent addition to the 3D-animation antihero game, Despicable Me, Megamind presents audiences with a supervillain undergoing an identity crisis. The movie also relies heavily upon the D.C. Comics stash of character archetypes; it does so primarily by performing a twist on the Superman/Lex Luthor dichotomy and gratuitously tossing in a bunch Green Lantern references. The result is not nearly as clever as director Tom McGrath (Madagascar) and a couple of inexperienced screenwriters (Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons) would have us believe, but I’ve got no doubt that audiences will nonetheless reward the minimal efforts coming from these filmmakers.
Now, I’ll concede that Megamind’s visuals are rather impressive and actually make good use of 3D effects, but this eye candy is just that. The script is crafted around a list of 3D effects with little afterthought given to providing a story worth telling. Megamind, like Shrek, appears to revolve around the assumption that there really are no more stories worth telling that haven’t already been told; as such, this movie subsists upon aping superior tales of yesteryear with all of the overwrought self-awareness of writers who just recently learned the meaning of “meta” (but haven’t watched nearly enough contemporary movies to realize that the tactic has already been done to death). This cinematically juvenile approach wouldn’t be such a problem if Megamind didn’t also have much in common with the aforementioned Despicable Me (which emerged earlier this year as a startlingly original property); but since I’m feeling rather generous today, not even those similarities would necessarily damn Megamind either but for the fact that Despicable did it all — visuals, voicing, and script — far better in terms of the super-villain turned antihero.
Megamind unoriginally riffs upon the superhero and supervillain archetypes under the flimsy excuse of offering “commentary.” The problem, of course, is that no new thoughts are expressed by the terribly insubstantial script, so Megamind ends up being an impossibly inferior product, which has been mass-marketed and shoveled into theaters upon the backs of a bunch of A-list voices. That’s supposed to be adequate to pull you into theaters. Well, it’s not enough, dammit.
Working with an exceedingly simple story, Megamind tells the tale of good vs. evil in Metro City. Many years ago, two infants — Metro Man (Brad Pitt) and Megamind (Will Ferrell) — simultaneously left their own planets in capsules bound for Earth. One of them lands, relatively speaking, in the lap of luxury; the other one somehow lands inside of a prison. I think you can guess how well this plays out for the blue, light bulb-shaped cranium, correct? Megamind is “Bad to the Bone” (a merciless tune already shamelessly regurgitated within this year’s Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore) from the very beginning of life on Earth. From that point on, Metro Man and Megamind find themselves ensnared within a rivalry of the ages until one of their battles inexplicably results in the death of Metro Man. Afterwards, Megamind finds himself, quite simply, incapable of coping without his former nemesis to keep him hopping.
Much like Despicable’s Gru, Megamind soon grows disenchanted with the fruits of villainy; but instead of deciding that there’s much more to life (i.e., family) than being the biggest, baddest villain of them all, Megamind decides to place himself back at square one. So he summons his most loyal servant, who just happens to be named Minion (David Cross, an entirely lost cause at this point), to conjure up a new and improved mortal enemy on the good side. Naturally, the plan doesn’t work out as anticipated; even more predictably, Megamind develops a love interest in Roxanne Ritchi, (Tina Fey) the prototypical ace television reporter in manner of Lois Lane. For her part, Fey is scrappy, while Jonah Hill is goofy as Roxanne’s cameraman, Hal, who very unsubtly recalls a few Green Lantern incarnations. The enduring appeal of Brad Pitt shines through in his voice work, but his role is fairly limited. Meanwhile, Ferrell briefly does a Marlon Brando-esque voice reminiscient of Jor-El but, otherwise, sounds like someone squarely kicked him in the blue balls. Perhaps someone really should do just that, so that Ferrell can join Megamind in ultimately crumbling underneath the weight of their own jointly presumed cleverness.
Even with all of the underwhelming aspects of Megamind to consider, this movie will likely be the third commercial success this year for DreamWorks. So next time you find yourselves sputtering mad over the cultural perversity of The Twilight Saga and its ability to rake in billions of sparkle-tainted dollars, an even more culpable target for lowering the standards of cinema can be found merely by looking at kiddie flicks, which undoubtedly kick starts bad taste in movies. In other words, these kids learn at an early age to value that which looks really good but offers nothing else; and they seek out similar pretty packages in adolescence. Attempting to counteract these cultural assaults is nothing new to world-weary parents, but for those who choose to remain blissfully ignorant, please rest assured that your time may soon come. Just like those who smugly sit back and think, “MY child won’t have tantrums,” you might also believe that “MY child will have taste.” Well, you’re wrong, and you too will suffer at the hands of flashy and entirely vacuous crap similar to Megamind. Think of it as a rite of parental passage but, if at all possible, attempt to postpone the inevitable until the DVD arrives.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.