Megamind

Megamind. Voiced by Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, and David Cross. Directed by Tom McGrath.Rated PG (Mild animated violence and coarse language). 95 min.

This animated comedy film is an enjoyable romp through past animated movies about superheroes and supervillains, but there are some unusual twists. An infant Megamind (Will Ferrell) is propelled through space from another planet, and is raised on earth as a baddie. He is in constant competition with MetroMan (almost unrecognizably voiced by Brad Pitt), a super-goodie, who arrives on earth at the same time. Megamind’s one ambition is to stay ahead of MetroMan, who has become the hero of Metro City. They each have different parents, they have been raised differently, and they are persons, who behave in opposite ways. The goodness of MetroMan always gets the better of anything sinister that Megamind can deliver.  Megamind kidnaps Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey), a journalist, to try to lure MetroMan into a fight, and being the unsuccessful villain that he is, he is fated to be defeated. Megamind forms the plan to destroy MetroMan so as he can reign forever as the evil overlord of Metro City, and he lures MetroMan to a hideout where he is “killed”. Less than mid-way into the movie, the film suddenly finds itself without a hero.

The lack of excitement of having no superhero to fight with him dulls Megamind’s life. A supervillain requires a superhero to be appreciated as a real villain, and because there is no long any fun in having no one to stop you, Megamind decides he has to make his own goodie. He creates a superhero out of the DNA he takes from MetroMan’s dandruff, and he names his new creation, Tighten (Jonah Hill). But Tighten causes him problems, and doesn’t do everything he is told to do; he is attracted by evil when he should be doing good. Megamind’s plans go even more astray when he falls in love with Roxanne, and she rejects him for his villainous deeds. The only way to win her over is to prove that he too can be a hero. By devious means, he turns his villainous nature around, and becomes the new superhero of Metro City. When this happens, everyone loves him, including Roxanne.

The movie borrows shamelessly from a whole raft of films about superheros and supervillains, but manages to project likeable characters to provide a good deal of enjoyment. There are some great comic moments in the film (Megamind has an “illiteracy beam” to fire at people, and he can be very upset if he gets too much positive feedback), and the 3-D effects integrate very well with the movie’s story-line. The film is a fast-moving one that aims to provide a good time. It could have dealt with the thesis that good and evil have a long association together that means something, but it pulls back from any philosophical reflections, except to satirize, or make fun of them. This film is mostly about a villain, who suffers from an identity crisis that makes him doubt whether he really wants to be a villain. The particular mix of goodness and badness in Megamind has an original touch to it, but it is essentially a plot device. The voices behind the characters are full of comic talent, however. Fey’s matter-of-fact attitude suits her role verywell, and Ferrell is Megamind to a tee.

The movie doesn’t reach the heights achieved by the recent animated film from the same studio, “How to Train your Dragon” (2010). One is asked to identify with Megamind, who doesn’t stand for anything moral at all, and the film’s messages about goodness are very confusing. Mostly, this is a film that has been made for those, who don’t mind plot-complexity, and who don’t want to ponder too thoughtfully about what it is they see or hear. However, the voices behind the animated characters are terrific, the script is witty, and the quality of the animation, as one would expect from “Dreamworks”, is impressive.

Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

Paramount Pictures.

Out December 9, 2010.