MCN Columnists
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Review: Megamind

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: You don’t really need to pay the premium to see Megamind in 3-D. It’s a sharp, nice looking film as it is, but I didn’t find the 3-D elements, though relatively seamless and painless, to be anything I couldn’t live without.

While not completely what I would call original in story idea (it’s your basic hero-villain story told from the villain’s point-of-view, which was also done in Despicable Me not terribly long ago), Megamind is executed surprisingly well, bolstered by some terrific voiceover work by Will Ferrell as Megamind, the big-headed blue guy who’s grown up as a lonely societal outcast who never fits in and can’t do anything right; David Cross as Minion, Megamind’s … well, minion; Brad Pitt as his lifelong nemesis, Metro Man, who can do no wrong; Tina Fey as Roxanne Ritchie, the smart, sexy television reporter who pines after Metro Man and is preyed upon by Megamind; and Jonah Hill as Roxanne’s dorky camera man, who can’t, as they say, win for losing (in no small part because, as we learn as the film goes on, he’s not such a nice, innocuous guy after all).

And of course, there are the usual moralistic lessons we expect in our kiddie fare — unlike Wall Street robber barons, the hero has to learn a lesson and can’t profit by doing bad — and there’s heaps of toe-tapping retro tunes that will immediately evoke certain Pavlovian responses in the adults in the audience.

But still, it’s all good, clean, wholesome fun, as American in its ideals as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. After all, this is a country where immigrants can do great things, at a time when the lines between who’s good and who’s bad can shift and change with the latest news reports and when really smart guys (and girls, to be fair) have been both the heroes and villains of our own economic and societal dramas. Megamind, in a lot of ways, is reflecting back at us the world we’ve created, with a bit more cynicism than Wall-E and a bit less life-lesson-moralizing than, say, Up.

The story, in a nutshell: Megamind and Metro Man both hit Earth (literally) at the same time, infant refugees sent to safety by their parents from doomed planets, ala Superman. From the beginning, Fate conspires to set them up as rivals, with the popular, well-heeled and handsome Metro Man continually one-upping his scrawny, blue, egg-headed, super-brainy counterpart.

Metro Man has the good fortune to land in a mansion; Megamind, in a classic case of the effect of nurture on the upbringing of kids, lands in a prison yard, where he’s taken in and brought up by metaphorical wolves. Metro Man grows to have the admiration of his schoolmates and later, the entire town of Metro City; Megamind has one friend and companion, Minion, given him by his evil parents when they put their son in the escape pod.

Both of them have Roxanne, who fills the “Lois Lane/Mary Jane”-type role here, but Metro Man is too wrapped up in his own awesomeness to pursue her and Megamind expresses his affection for the fair damsel by kidnapping and torturing her on a regular basis, his adolescent “how to show a girl you like her” techniques apparently frozen in about the fifth grade. Roxanne’s other suitor, Hill’s awkward, arrogant geek, isn’t anything worth writing home about either. And Roxanne’s a smart, sexy chick voiced by smart, sexy chick Tina Fey, which kind of leads one to wonder just why Metro City is apparently suffering from a shortage of better eligible prospects for a single girl.

There are some clever, if a bit convoluted plot twists and turns, though I hesitate to criticize the film for being too complicated for younger kids when the script (by Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons) does at least attempt to be creative and inventive; we’re always and forever bitching at Hollywood for being simplistic and formulaic, and while there are shadows of both The Incredibles and Despicable Me in here, Megamind and Minion in particular are so well brought to life by Ferrell and Cross that it almost doesn’t matter.

Ferrell plays Megamind as very over the top — but I wouldn’t say more so than the part requires; and the character of Minion is well-conceived, so fun an homage to the classic sci-fi sidekick part and executed with just the right enthusiasm, cheeriness, and even despair (shades of Billy Crystal’s cyclops-eyed Mike Wazowski from Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. to John Goodman’s Sully).

Megamind is given some funny quirks that Farrell has a lot of fun with, and because he’s having so much fun as Megamind, we do too. The script is packed with pop culture references, which for me have the interesting effect of making me laugh out loud at the time, but when they’re overdone I tend to feel upon later reflection like the filmmaker copped a bit of a cheap, easy feel. Which is to say, I laughed a lot during the screening, but on retrospect had to consider that this was at least in part because the script often goes for the easy plays and veers toward emotionally manipulative humor and the “easy A.”

Still, I think most kids will get a kick out of Megamind, and their parents will, too. There are a hell of a lot of kiddie flicks I’d rather slit my wrists than sit through after watching so many crappy “family films” over the past 25 years, and by comparison Megamind is an easy ride, a fun little film that most parents and their kiddos will enjoy watching together over a vat of popcorn. Sometimes, a little fun at the movies is enough, and with not a lot of box office competition until Harry Potter comes along in a few weeks, Megamind should grab the attention of the family film crowd, and generate enough good word-of-mouth to hang in there for a while.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

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~ David Simon