© 2010 Ray Wong
Dreamworks Animation may be vying for second place behind Pixar, but they often come out with solid animation features. Megamind has all the right ingredient: big stars, a larger-than-life superhero premise, and cute characters. The result, however, is rather a mixed bag.
In a Superman-esque opening, we learn that Megamind (Will Ferrell) is the lone survivor of his planet. But he's not the only one. Metro Man (Brad Pitt), from a neighboring planet, also survives, and they both end up on Earth. Megamind has the misfortune of landing in a prison, and because he looks odd, he's constantly picked on. Quickly he and the popular Metro Man become mortal enemies. They often try to one-up each other. Metro Man becomes the de facto superhero of Metro City, and Megamind the super villain who can never win.
At the opening ceremony of the Metro Man Museum, Megamind once again tries to defeat Metro Man. He kidnaps reporter Roxanne (Tina Fey), whom he believes is Metro Man's main squeeze. But his plan goes too well, and he destroys Metro Man for good. For a while, Megamind enjoys his victory and being fearsome, but after a while, he realizes life is boring and there is no point without a hero to fight. And to his surprise, he misses Metro Man.
So Megamind decides to create a new superhero to fight him. By using Metro Man's DNA, Megamind accidentally makes Roxanne's cameraman Tighten (Jonah Hill) a superhuman. Unfortunately, Tighten has none of the quality that makes up a superhero. Instead, Tighten wants to be a super villain like Megamind.
Will Ferrel (The Other Guys) stages his "come back" with the back-to-back comedies. As the voice of Megamind, Ferrel exercises his zaniness with an over-the-top performance. He's entertaining when he doesn't sound obnoxious -- and that's a very thin line at times. Brad Pitt (Inglourious Basterds), on the other hand, is all dapper and charming as the hunky Metro Man. The two voices and characters are definitely yin and yang for each other.
Tina Fey (Date Night) provides the voice for the only major female character. Her performance is spirited and sexy. Her voice and Ferrel's surprisingly compliment each other well. On the other hand, even in animated character form, Jonah Hill (Get Him to the Greek) practically plays himself again. His whiny voice fits the character perfectly.
The rest of the voice cast includes David Cross (Year One) in a funny role as Minion, Ben Stiller (Greenberg) in a small role as Bernard, and J.K. Simmons (Up in the Air) as the deadpanning Warden.
The screenplay is written by two novice writers: Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons, and it shows. While the story has a natural "coming of age" arc, the treatment is rather chaotic. The first and last act are relatively smooth (and standard -- well, I mean, we've seen it before in something like The Incredibles), but the second act is rather a mess. Over all, I feel the story lacks a focus, and there are too many bits and pieces vying for our attention. It's busy, and which may please the young ones in the audience. But for us adults, it feels bloated and out of control at times. The comedy is often broad, and the dialogue skit-like. The premise is try-and-true, but lacks certain imagination. The beginning, for example, is a complete ripoff of Superman, albeit having a comedic, new twist.
Under Tom McGrath's (Madagascar), the animation, however, is top-notch. We can always count on the animators at Dreamworks to do great work. The colors are vibrant. The characters are well designed. And the action sequences are well rendered. The production value is consistently good. The pacing, however, suffers from the script. Even McGrath can't save the film from the sloppy second act. Fortunately, the third act delivers, even though the ending is predictable.
As a family film, Megamind will certainly entertain the young ones, what with its vibrant animation, zany action and superhero storyline. Ferrell's and Fey's performances as well as the frantic comedy should please fans of broad comedies. For the adults looking for something more substantial in animation features, however, watch Toy Story 3 instead. It doesn't take a mega-mind to figure that out.
Stars: Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, David Cross, Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller, J.K. Simmons
Director: Tom McGrath
Writers: Alan J. Schoolcraft, Brent Simons
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG for action and some language
Running Time: 96 minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 8
Animation – 8
Editing – 8
Production – 8
Total – 7.1 out of 10