Much like several earlier Dreamworks animated features, “Megamind” is a lively and witty kids’ film without a great deal of depth. Rather than convey evocative themes, it offers roughly 90 minutes of light-hearted superheroic antics. But though “Megamind” may not stretch far beyond the expectations of a modern children’s movie, it certainly demonstrates a new take on the age-old battle between good and evil, wrapped up in a stunning visual package.
The story follows the rivalry of the two main characters, a perpetual hero named Metro Man (Brad Pitt) and his evil alien counterpart, Megamind (Will Ferrell). The two supernatural beings, both born in outer space and sent to Earth, have been engaged in a struggle of good versus evil literally since birth. Through a bizarre series of events though, Megamind—who describes himself as being “always thirsty, never satisfied”—needs to find a new hero to fight and accidentally creates one in an unlikely news cameraman (Jonah Hill). All of this, combined with a love triangle between hero, villain, and an attractive news reporter (Tina Fey), makes for 96 minutes of clean humor and childlike adventure.
This film’s visual success may be attributable to its experienced director, Tom McGrath. As an animator, a voice actor, a director, and a screenwriter, McGrath not only directed “Megamind” but provided two of the voices for minor characters as well. He also directed Dreamworks’ “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” and has worked as a writer, storyboard artist, and animator for several other Dreamworks productions. It’s obvious that this film was created by an expert, as its plot line calls for explosive car scenes and extensive periods of flight. The 3D effects also make it especially pleasing to watch, as characters fly right out of the screen and collapsing buildings seem to topple into the cinema’s audience.
“Megamind” also shows that some actors are so comically talented, they don’t even need to be filmed on camera to effectively get a joke across. Ferrell, Fey, Hill, and even Pitt (whose Metro Man isn’t granted much screen time) all prove to be hilarious and endearing animated characters, whether they’re saving the world or trying to destroy it. Their voices are immediately recognizable and bring life to ridiculous characters who sometimes have something of value to say; in a moment of poignancy, for example, Pitt’s character states, “You can’t trap justice. It’s an idea, a belief.”
Like “Shrek” and many other of Dreamworks’s modern takes on classic stroylines, “Megamind” is full of not only classic morals, but also subtly disguised adult humor that takes the form of quick jokes and details in setting and costuming. Curses are tactfully avoided throughout—when “Highway to Hell” is played in the background of one scene, the final word of the title is constantly obfuscated. The film also makes references to several aspects of modern culture that its younger viewers may not recognize, like President Obama’s campaign posters and the original “Karate Kid” movie. The movie’s animator also made the characters humanly surrealistic and, for lack of a better word, hot—Metro Man is complete with a washboard six-pack and Fey’s character is polished with an hourglass-shaped figure and dimples. These details may seem trivial but they make “Megamind” appealing for adults while still being appropriate for all ages.
Unfortunately, the intended audience of “Megamind” is also the reason it can’t take on themes more profound than good versus evil and the importance of accepting people’s differences, but such is the nature of standard children’s fare. Though its plot line and final conclusion may leave more mature audiences yearning for greater complication, this film is certainly successful in being a well-intentioned fable with a modern twist.
In an exciting scene toward the end of the film, Megamind says “The thing about bad guys? They always lose.” Likewise, the thing about kids’ movies? They tend to lack depth, but sometimes make up for it in humor and cheerfulness. “Megamind” is definitely a visual masterpiece, and between its esteemed director and extremely personable actors, this film’s cliched themes are definitely overpowered by its wit and charm.