Below is the unedited copy of the review published in iMAGES on Sunday, Sunday November 28, 2010 in our film review column Animadversion. For the published version, check out the links at the end of the post.
Big Blue Brain, Smart Alec Mouth and His Darn Luck
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
I would have stuck to “The Magnificent OoberMind”. An off-kilter title for a 3D-CGI film sells better than “MegaMind” (or just Oobermind or *shudder* Master Mind, thank god). “MegaMind” sounds (exactly) like a memory enhancing tablet I saw on a home shopping television show years ago. Just thinking aloud FYI.
Anyways, “MegaMind” is the sparkling sleek and deferentially mature third outing from DreamWorks Animation – the other two being “Shrek Forever After” and the about-to-be-Oscar-Nominated “How to Train Your Dragon”. On the meter it is flanked by originality, cliché and the customary cramming of compulsively referential material. In MegaMind’s case, the reference itself is the seed that becomes the baby.
“MegaMind” borrows heavily from “Superman”, and flips the setting to: what if Lex Luthor was a bald, blue-skinned Alien with a snappy-mouth and a scrawny persona, who crash lands on a “Prison for the Criminally Gifted”, outside Metro City after his planet is gulped down by a nasty black hole.
In a Jor-El, Lara moment, MegaMind’s mother and father puts him in a space-pod, gives him a sharp-toothed fish in an air-tight bowl who is his guide and protector named henceforth as Minion (voiced by a wasted David Cross, who later gets to parade around a big robotic suit). In their final moments his father says, in classic melodramatic cliché “You are destined for…” before getting his last bit cut-off by a closing hatch. As Will Farrell, the voice of MegaMind recalls “I didn’t hear that last part, but it sounded important”. I think the last word his father said was “Dweebness”.
MegaMind’s main villain, and the film’s initial protagonist, IS the one fate-ordained to greatness. Metro Man – a superhero celebrity rip-off of Superman with bulky shoulders, an over-puffed chest, dingy legs and a stretched chin – voiced by Brad Pitt (in according to my ears, his best vocal work for any animated feature). Metro Man was the next-planet neighbor to MegaMind. Patently, his parents had the same idea before their planet was guzzled by the black hole.
The Lois Lane of the film is Roxanne Ritchie (Tina Fey, always the life of the party) and the would-be Jimmy Olsen is Hal (Jonah Hill), her cameraman, who is also MegaMind’s second shot to salvation and an awkward pest in love with Roxanne.
Unlike Lex Luthor, MegaMind actually succeeds in destroying the overly pompous Metro Man, who by the way is never revealed to have a secret identity, nor is it clarified what happened to his adoptive parents or his unconcealed, overly boy-scout, school life. I mean, anyone with an IQ plus of a 15 year old can link a connection to a super-strong smiling kid in class who can float in mid-air and fire heat beams from his eyes to Metro Man, roughly 20-something years later.
Never mind the plot holes because “MegaMind” is promptly paced. It manages to jog through its 96 minute running time without gobbling up scenes half-chewed or running out of breath.
Mr. Farrell’s MegaMind runs gags with the ferocity of a geeky-looser fanboy who gets to cosplay with voice acting (that was a complement). In the film’s best sequences MegaMind, donning a holographic guise, guides a newly powered-up Hal to be the next superhero of the block. The guise he chooses is that of a midget Jor-El, complete with a picture perfect, half-understandable, Brando parody. Who can ask for more valid reason to watch this movie?
“MegaMind” is rated PG-13. It features velvety action sequences, not-too-serious superheroes, a loser egg-shaped villain and a matter-dehydration/hydration gun that should be patented.
Released by DreamWorks Animation / Paramount, the film is directed with an eye for zealous 3D cinematography by Tom McGarth (both Madagascar’s); written by Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons; edited by Michael Andrews, featuring not-so-overbearing music by Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe.
All this and not a peep about Pixar’s “The Incredibles”…oops.
By Farheen Jawaid
“MegaMind”. The name aptly attaches itself to a half-cocky B-grade villain, which in this case is voiced by Will Farrell, whose superficial appearance comes packaged with a big, almost perpendicularly misaligned cone of a head, a small slit goatee and fashionista-black costume. Like many vintage comicbook villains, he has a distinct color to himself. That color is blue. The combination of black, blue and big head hides a bemused malnourished personality that seeks one simple thing: To be the best bad there is.
“MegaMind” is a fast paced outing that confidently tells the story of DreamWorks Animation’s slow progress to Pixar standard. However, to come to terms with Pixar, their stories need to step away from stereotypical awareness / reference to pop culture, slapstick and general cliché.
“MegaMind” is still neck deep in these areas, yet it still manages to utilize comedic pop references – including homage to Michael Jackson at the end of the film, when everyone boogies to MJ’s “Bad” – and cliché to its advantage; but only because its genetic code is spliced from DC Comic’s “Superman”. This is no “Incredibles”, but then again, not everyone claims to be.
Tom McGarth, of “Madagascar” fame, is largely invisible as he paces through a fun, if self-absorbed and pot holed screenplay by Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons that has Will Farrell, the voice of MegaMind, doing everything from romance to drama to parody (he mimics a laugh-out-loud personification of Marlon Brando’s Jor-El). Brad Pitt sounds good, even on Metro Man’s awkwardly long face and Elvis-like haircut. Tina Fey, as Roxanne Ritchie, the Lois Lane type reporter of the film, is designed with a head as misaligned as MegaMind, but hey, who’s complaining when you have comic geniuses at work, ploughing through, what is essentially a kiddie picture, with a dash of gravity.