Megamind isn't the best Will Ferrell movie of the year so far (The Other Guys is), but it is the best animated one. And it's a pretty good reversal of the usual superhero movie plot (and more specifically, the usual Superman plot) where the villain actually wins some and gets to rule the day.
Megamind (voiced by Will Ferrell) is a blue person who, along with Metro Man (voice of Brad Pitt), escaped the destruction of their sector of outer space in crafts resembling Superman's Krypton escape pod. Both, also like Superman, landed on Earth and grew up among its residents outside of Metro City. Metro Man, a hero-without-even-trying, does everything right and is conventionally handsome and popular.
Megamind, on the other hand, grows bitter over his rejection by his peers because of his intelligence, unique look and misguided, failed efforts to win them over. He just can't seem to help having his good efforts backfire. Finally, instead of continuing to try to steal the spotlight from Metro Man, Megamind realizes that his true path in life is to oppose the chosen hero and everything good he or anyone else may stand for. Thus is evil born from schoolyard realities and frustrations.
A quite interesting side story of fascism vs. freedom runs through the tale, but gets pretty short shrift. It works on the top level of the story and its developments, rather than on the character level where most of the action takes place, with Megamind, his sidekick, Minion (voiced by the excellent, very funny David Cross) (can we retire the name "Minion" already?), hard-charging Roxanne Ritchi (voice of Tina Fey, perfect), Metro Man's sort-of Lois Lane, and Hal, her cameraman-with-a-crush, who becomes known as "Tighten" (voiced well by Jonah Hill). But the questions of why Metro City needs a hero, a villain, huge totalitarian architecture, etc., are more interesting than fully explored in the film. Granted, it's sort of a useful comment just to have these larger questions ignored, a lot like we do in our own American politics these days.
The film is smart and funny, though. Little and big jokes with ace timing go off like firecrackers at regular intervals, keeping the film moving divertingly even as it skims the surface of a good deal of exploitable plot and parody material. Megamind himself is patently ridiculous, mispronouncing simple words--including "Metro City" as "Metrocity," to rhyme with "atrocity"--and the script and Ferrell's voicing are wonderfully silly enough to pull it off together.
Megamind's real troubles start when he does something no one ever expected him to do: he neutralizes Metro Man and takes over Metro City. Sadly, a life of regularly foiled crimes and prison time have left him bereft of actual contingency plans to implement following such a victory. He exults, then despairs, spends a lot of time in disguises trying to figure out his possible place in the life of the regular folks of Metro City, then hatches the brilliant but shortsighted plan of making a new Metro Man-class hero to fight against, to make things more like they were "before."
The fetishism of evil and self-sabotage Megamind displays, both consciously and not, uses some more grown-up themes than one might expect from a PG kids movie. On the other hand, they're instantly relatable to kids, as well, really to anyone who's ever seen or experienced any part of any kind of bullying. It doesn't go too far over the top, in fact it's handled humorously and mostly successfully, and its resolution makes sense.
There is a level of (admittedly cartoon) violence which is funny and appropriate to the story, but perhaps not to a PG rating, which is what this film was given. It probably should have been PG-13. But maybe kids as young as nine or ten, or younger depending on their level of media maturity, would not be bothered by it. I can say I witnessed young children at the screening I attended being bothered by it, and heard them on the way out of the theater complaining that it was too scary.
Megamind is visually smart, character-smart and wry, it's fun and action-packed and it makes good use of its 3-D format. The vocal performances are all quite outstanding. As a superhero, animation and comedy fan, I was very entertained for most of the time. It's not quite as good or bright as this year's similar Despicable Me (still playing in San Diego, and perhaps near you), but still, kudos all around. I'd watch it again.
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