A few months ago I mentioned that, to me, all computer-animated films are measured against the insanely high standard that Pixar Animation Studios has set for the entire medium. You’d think another studio making something at least close to comparable would be a good thing, but I submit otherwise.
Enter Dreamworks, and their latest animated offering, Megamind.
Megamind is the story of, well — Megamind (Will Ferrel), a perpetually plotting evil, alien genius who arrived on earth as an infant and is raised in the way of being a baddie. His foil is the ever perfect, always ahead of the game nemesis, Metro Man (Brad Pitt) – the hero of Metro City.
The game is always the same; Megamind kidnaps girl — in this case, snarky but sweet reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey), attempts to use her as bait to draw Metro Man into a battle — and is soundly defeated. When one particular plan actually seems to draw in favor of Megamind with the destruction of Metro Man and his following free reign over the city, he very quickly finds out an important truth; it’s no fun being bad if nobody is there to attempt to stop you.
Megamind thus sets out to create the perfect supervillain scenario for just his situation — creating a new Superhero content to allow him to pursue his plans of domination, while beating him back just enough to allow him to plot for another day. As the story progresses, it is also clear that Megamind wants to get the girl — Roxanne — in spite of his unsavory ways. Most of this plan, of course, goes horribly wrong — and Megamind is put into the position of playing the part of hero and protector rather than baddie with a death ray.
As I’ve mentioned, the biggest failing of most animation studios outside of Pixar, is story — and Megamind is no different. Just as Despicable Me didn’t tie up the loose end that was an abusive orphanage owner, Megamind gets me twitching in my seat over plot details, and lack of logical conclusions. I said before, this may not be fair — because these movies aren’t always exactly aimed at me — but they should be, because I any many like me love animated films.
Further, I don’t believe kids are stupid, and thus should not be treated to flimsy plot. More on that shortly…
Megamind is built to be likable, and he mostly is — Ferrel does an excellent job of giving him life, and a unique character that, after a point, you forget is being voiced by the comedian. Trust me, this is a good thing — I think it speaks to his talent that past the first subconscious acknowledgment that this is Will Ferrel, you eventually simply see Megamind.
Though his screentime is limited, Brad Pitt as Metro Man is good fun, particularly late in the film — and if not for his name being on the promotional posters, I would have never guessed Pitt had contributed his voice at all.
David Cross as Minion, Megamind’s not particularly evil fish-in-a-giant-gorilla-cyborg (you’ll see…) is total kid bait, and they’d better make an excellent figurine to put in stores, because I want one. He’s solid filler as the more reasonable voice in the relationship. Fey’s Roxanne Ritchi was probably the weakest link so far as main cast was concerned — she’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatball’s Sam Sparks with a fewer cute lines and a tad more confidence.
Sadly, some fun stretches and a decent cast can’t totally save a film from plot-holes and hit-and-miss 3D, which I wish would go back in the oven for a few more years before returning – perhaps not raw in the middle.
Story to me is always key, and no matter how pretty a film is, if it’s lacking the overall product takes a beating. How do you rally around a guy that blows up your superhero? How do you fall in love with him? Megamind sort of skims over this — and it bothers me, because again — I know Pixar wouldn’t. You have to address the behavior and actions of your narcissistic sociopath (with a heart), ya’ know?
Overall, Megamind is just fine as an animated offering — past some muddy 3D experiences that I could completely do without, and ignoring the parts of the story that punch my OCD in the face — it’s cute, the characters are pretty funny — sometimes hilarious, but it’s nothing that will reside in the Pantheon of computer animated classics that we know and love. It is no How to Train Your Dragon, which brings me full circle.
Dreamworks set their own high water mark with that film — and I’d put it up there near the same strata as a Pixar offering. The criterea by which I’ll be judging Dreamworks Animation Studios is twofold — their own best, and what I consider the gold standard in any Pixar title.
Megamind doesn’t get the job done on either account.
The Upside: Megamind and Minion are a good team, and the characters play well off of each other. Most of your fun moments will be between them.
The Downside: Plot, hit-and-miss 3D.
On The Side: Brad Pitt does everything well. I think perhaps he’s a Cylon.