Friday, November 12, 2010

Don't mind the nega-minds on Megamind.

From the trailers, you would expect Megamind to be a simplistic superhero parody. Something like Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles, but much more dumb and cartoonish. The voice cast of Will Ferrell (Megamind), Tina Fey (Roxanne Ritchi) and Brad Pitt (Metro Man) didn't make me confident. However, I had to take friends to the theater, and make them happy, and they didn't want to see the action thriller/comedy RED. So it was Megamind or nothing.

It wasn't nothing. It was better than nothing. Far better. It isn't the best film animated this year, but it's a lot of fun. It had actual heart at the center of the film, which took me and my friends by surprise.

You know the basic plot from the trailers. Two extraterrestrials, Megamind and the future Metro Man, arrive from two neighboring planets. Metro Man is Caucasian, sleek, with perfect hair and perfect social skills. Megamind...not so much. And from childhood on, Megamind decides to become a villain. Right now, you're expecting traditional stuff; bad guy gets pummeled by good guy, amusingly. The kind of thing you saw in Despicable Me. This film had to be derivative, didn't it, because Megamind looks so much like Galaxar from Monsters vs. Aliens, doesn't he?

The film plays to these expectations. For what must be the millionth time, Megamind kidnaps Roxanne Ritchi. The predictable death traps bore her. Megamind lures Metro Man to his lair. And all appearances...Metro Man dies. Megamind triumphs.

What does the villain do when he beats the hero? That's Megamind's new dilemma. He realizes that, having won it all, he no longer has a goal or an obstacle to struggle against. He is, in other words, more sensible than most standard supervillains. In fact, he's in precisely the same dilemma as the petty crook in the Twilight Zone episode "A Nice Place to Visit." Getting everything you Hell.

So, Megamind decides to duplicate Metro Man's powers and give them to someone, make them a hero, and he'll have another nemesis. He chooses Roxanne's nerdish, socially incompetent cameraman (voice by Jonah Hill), appears to him in the guise of his "alien father" (a voice impression which is hilarious and which I won't spoil) and christens the new hero Titan. Of course, the guy is illiterate, so he spells his name "Tighten."

Instead of fighting Megamind, Tighten goes nuts. He has power now. He has revenge on his mind for a life of lowly work. He wants to blow up stuff, real good. And he wants Roxanne Ritchi, bad. Oddly enough, due to a disguise he assumed out of necessity, Megamind has fallen in love with Roxanne. Love has forced the stereotypical villain to become a different kind of hero.

As I say, this is not revolutionary stuff. The CGI is quite adequate. (I did not see it in 3-D, because that would have added nothing to the story. You shouldn't, either.) The best part of Megamind is that the actors went to the trouble of getting inside their characters. You believe that Megamind could actually fall in love, and you see the process happening throughout the film. You believe that the cynical Roxanne could also come to love Megamind.

When stars do voice acting in animated movies, it's usually just their regular personalities. You would expect Tina Fey to do something like her 30 Rock character, or maybe a version of her Sarah Palin impression. But she dug into the part. So did Will Ferrell and the others.

I doubt severely that we'll see a sequel to Megamind or a TV series. After one Halloween special, Monsters vs. Aliens has disappeared. Despicable Me came and went. DreamWorks has trouble making sequels outside of Shrek and Madagascar. And the conclusion of Megamind doesn't leave much room for any follow-ups. That may be best. As it is, Megamind is a solid animated movie with good entertainment value. It's worth a DVD purchase - and I don't make that kind of recommendation quickly these days.