Mwahahaha: Plenty of laughs, evil or otherwise
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, November 5, 2010
In the eternal struggle between the forces of good and evil, good almost always triumphs - at least in Hollywood: Flash Gordon vs. Ming the Merciless; Superman vs. Lex Luthor; Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. In "Megamind," an animated fable about a similar clash of moral titans, funny reigns victorious.
At the center of this utterly delightful film is its eponymous hero - er, villain - a blue-skinned alien who was sent to Earth as a baby when his home planet exploded. Unlike his superhero nemesis, Metro Man (voice of Brad Pitt), another refugee from a dying world, Megamind (Will Ferrell) did not grow up with "the power of flight, invulnerability and great hair," as he so bitterly puts it. Instead, Megamind has had to learn to get by on the powers that reside within his giant, bald cranium. That, and showmanship.
Unfortunately, like "Despicable Me's" Gru, Megamind is less evil genius than evil underachiever. He's not bad so much as bad-ish. "Imagine the most horrifying, terrifying, evil thing you can think of," he tells one of his victims, "and then multiply it . . . by six." In his tangles with Metro Man, Megamind had gotten used to constantly coming out on the bottom.
When it comes to personality, however, Megamind wins hands down. There's a reason the movie is named after him, and not his rival in white tights. Like other men of steel, Metro Man is a muscle-bound bore.
Megamind, on the other hand, is brought to life with every ounce of Ferrell's comic might in this sharply satiric, deftly written twist on the superhero trope, a tale in which the bad guy is, if not as strong as his adversary, at least a lot more entertaining.
Thankfully, Pitt's Metro Man is dispensed with early in the movie, in an upset victory that surprises even Megamind. Ten minutes into the tale, Megamind finds himself unexpectedly on top for the first time since he and his archenemy came hurtling to Earth in matching escape pods all those years ago.
It's not a situation he's especially comfortable with. Just as good cannot exist without evil - at least theoretically - so too does evil need something to push against. What's the point of world domination when there's no one left to dominate?
Faced with the sudden absence of his longtime adversary, Megamind decides to create a hero from scratch, or at least from Metro Man's DNA, a scrap of which has survived in the form of decidedly un-superheroic dandruff. The lucky recipient? Hal (Jonah Hill), the Jimmy Olsen-esque sidekick - and unrequited suitor - of intrepid TV newswoman and Lois Lane look-alike Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey).
Hal, as it turns out, isn't exactly the hero type. He would much rather play the bad guy than the good guy, especially after he learns that Megamind is not just his rival in matters of crime and punishment, but in affairs of the heart.
That's right: Megamind also has a soft spot for Roxanne.
The resulting love triangle is comic gold. Not only does it afford an opportunity for Megamind to woo Roxanne - a crazy couple if ever there was one - but also to do battle with Hal, now known as Tighten and currently wreaking havoc in Metro City.
It also affords the opportunity for Megamind, who up until now has made a pretty lousy villain, to start looking for his inner hero.
Directed by Tom "Madagascar" McGrath, and written by Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons, "Megamind" is a smart, funny and original treat. Sweet enough to deliver a message about creating your own destiny, but with just enough sour grapes not to cloy, the movie delivers pure pleasure from start to finish. It's also beautifully animated, with great sensitivity to detail. Check out the faintest flush of pink, for instance, in Megamind's oversize ears. For once, the 3-D gimmick seems justified, with eye-popping scenery and action.
"What's the difference between a villain and supervillain?" asks Megamind of Tighten, as our hero - yes, hero - makes one of his rock-star-like entrances. "Presentation!"
The same might be said of the difference between a movie and a super movie. "Megamind" has presentation in spades. But it also has something even rarer than that. It's got heart.
Contains action sequences and mildly crude language.