While DreamWorks’ Megamind (opening Nov. 5) is diverting enough, it breaks no new ground and doesn’t have the emotional resonance of Pixar movies. It’s more like a Chinese meal you enjoy but end up hungry again an hour later, perhaps even forgetting you had dinner at all.
Megamind’s origin story is similar to Superman’s in that his parents sent him to Earth when his planet was destroyed. But he wasn’t the only baby who escaped. The other infant’s ship landed in a rich couple’s home, where the boy received every advantage that comes with his class, while Megamind’s pod landed in a much more unsavory place, supposedly setting his course in life. He decides his only choice is to become the baddest supervillain ever.
His biggest obstacle? The other baby growing up to be Metro Man, an alpha male in every way and protector of Metro City. Metro Man thwarts Megamind’s most dastardly deeds until one day, he can’t anymore, causing Megamind to have identity issues. What good is a supervillain when there’s no superhero to stop him? He gets a chance to find his true purpose when another bad guy shows up to wreak havoc on Metro City. Will Megamind stop him or join forces with him?
The movie has good things to say about how we judge people and free will vs. destiny. As a kid, the giant-blue-headed Megamind always got picked last for dodgeball and he grows up thinking a life of crime is his only option after an unfortunate childhood. Ferrell does decent voice work, knowing when to turn on the frenzy and when to keep it quieter, but the movie’s casting is too obvious. Need a brainy, dry-witted brunette? Tina Fey, of course! A hunky guy who has it all? Who else but Brad Pitt? A nerd who can’t get the girl? Hey, let’s get Jonah Hill! Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to have Pitt play nerdy and Hill be heroic? In animation, where actors are unencumbered by their physical appearance, they should be able to play anything but Megamind seems content with making easy choices. In contrast, I wouldn’t have thought of Tom Hanks first to play a cowboy or Tim Allen to voice an astronaut.
While I’m comparing, I might as well mention that Megamind works fine as surface entertainment but I saw a missed opportunity for it to move viewers on a deeper level the way Pixar movies can. Megamind struggles with his image and outsider status, themes most of us can relate to, but the filmmakers merely do a gloss job on these matters. It’s okay to strive to only entertain, but playing it safe keeps the movie decidedly earthbound instead of blasting its appeal into infinity and beyond.
Nerd verdict: Megamind makes small impact
Photo of Tina Fey by Michael Murphree