Part of what makes Megamind so enjoyable is that it’s both an homage to and a parody of Superman. In this version, not one but two doomed planets send a newborn son to Earth. One can fly, has super strength and suave good looks, and, after his pod crash lands on the property of a wealthy couple, is destined to become a superhero. The other has blue skin, a bulbous head, a fish-like minion encased in a glass ball, and, after his pod crash lands within the confines of a prison, is destined to become a villain. We follow this villain, who has called himself Megamind, as he gradually realizes that maybe – just maybe – there’s more to him than merely being bad. Perhaps it was merely a phase, an unhealthy outlet for his jealously at being teased and neglected during his formative years.
This may not be the most original computer animated film of our time, but it certainly is one of the most compelling. It’s also one of the funniest; I think I laughed harder during Megamind than during any animated film released this year, and this includes highly enjoyable fair such as Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon, and Despicable Me. It follows in the footsteps of most new releases, both animated and live action, by being released in 3D. While I still feel that the process is overhyped, overused, and overrated, there are select moments when it proves itself adequate (it so rarely makes a movie great). Megamind is a perfectly adequate 3D film; I can’t say that I felt completely immersed, but I certainly enjoyed gawking at the action, the textures, and the shapes. That being said, all that would have just fine to look at in 2D, so if you have the choice, save yourself the extra cash – and yet another pair of 3D glasses.
And now for the plot. Megamind (voiced by Will Ferrell) has for years been the archenemy of Metro Man (voiced by Brad Pitt), a goody-two-shoes Superman caricature who defends the citizens of Metro City. Despite being well-crafted, Megamind’s evil schemes have all been foiled, and by now, it has gotten to the point that they no longer carry any weight – least of all for Metro City’s star news reporter Roxanne Ritchi (voiced by Tina Fey), who has been kidnapped by Megamind more times than she can remember.
On the day a museum opens in honor of Metro Man, Megamind appears to achieve the impossible by defeating his rival and taking control of the city. He’s happy about this, but only at first; after a while, it seems that, without a hero to battle against, his life has absolutely no meaning. Using technology of his own invention, he creates a new adversary, hoping it will help him relive his glory days as a criminal mastermind. Here enters Roxanne’s cameraman, Hal Stewart (voiced by Jonah Hill), who’s transformed from a pudgy computer nerd into a muscular superhero named Tighten (apparently a spoof of the word “titan”). Hal hopes to use his new abilities to woo Roxanne, who he has always had a crush on. Unfortunately, Roxanne is already dating someone else, and of that, I will say no more.
In due time, Tighten devolves into Metro City’s newest enemy. With Metro Man out of the picture, it seems the only hero the city has left is Megamind. Does he have it in him to be a defender of the people? The answer lies in a strange but appropriate skewing of a line Aaron Eckhart delivered in The Dark Knight: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
It’s practically a guarantee that children will enjoy this movie. It has a lot of action, the sight gags are plentiful, the colors are bright, the 3D is noticeable, and some of the dialogue is just silly enough to hold their attention. But adults will enjoy this movie, too. One of the funniest subplots involves Megamind’s ability to disguise himself with a series of holographic projections, controlled by a wristwatch-like mechanism; as he trains Hal into becoming a superhero, he transforms himself in a short, stocky send-up of Marlon Brando as Jor-El, complete with a hilariously pronounced lisp. I also enjoyed the parody of Shepard Fairey’s Hope poster, made famous during Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. Let’s just say that the phrase, “Yes, We Can,” no longer applies.
This is, in short, a highly enjoyable animated comedy that everyone will enjoy. There is, in fact, only one thing about Megamind I took issue with: A brief but disturbing shot of Metro Man juggling three babies before tossing them back to their star-struck mothers. One of them lands in his mother’s arms upside down. Even within the context of a family-friendly cartoon, this pushes the limits of what is and isn’t acceptable. Fortunately, the scene is saved when, immediately afterwards, Metro Man casually walks on water. I may be reaching too far, but this could be yet another reference to Superman, which was in part a biblical allusion to God sending Jesus to Earth for the benefit of mankind. The difference, of course, is that neither Jesus nor Superman would ever shout out, “And I love you, random citizen!”