Monday, November 22, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: Megamind

MEGAMIND-- 3 STARS

http://www.megamind.com
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1001526/

You know, animated or not, there are not many movies that show the villain's perspective of things.  Most movies never get too much into their side of the story.  In The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger's Joker has a running joke about how he came to be that changes every time he tells it.  Normally, the villains are ominous and destructive forces viewed from afar.  Take Kevin Spacey in Se7en as a prime example of unseen terror that's always present, but saved for the end of the movie.  Audiences rarely get to see what makes them tick and drive their ambitions.  Most of the time, we end up with the monologuing villain (made fun of nicely in Pixar's The Incredibles) that pointlessly divulges their entire plan to the hero.  Even more so, we even more rarely get to see the bad guy win.  Go ahead a name a movie where that happens.  Can you?

Megamind, the newest computer-animated family film from Dreamworks, is just that kind of story.  It's a villain's origin story and a look inside their motivations and inner psyche.  It's a chance to see what would happen if the hapless bad guy actually won for once.  While the pool that we get to look at is pretty shallow, it still has a lot more going on than one would realize.  That different point of view is the cleverness and fun of Megamind and it's quality storytelling elevates it much higher than this year's previous villain-inside-story animated movie Despicable Me.

The movie follows the ever-connected and destined pair of Megamind (Will Ferrell, of course) and Metro Man (Brad Pitt, perfect casting).  Both were infants saved from their respective neighboring dying planets and sent to Earth.  One crashed landed with a silver spoon in his mouth and one landed in the local penitentiary.  One grew up to be his city's greatest and beefiest hero and the other became his mortal, ultra-intelligent enemy.  As with most superhero and supervillain stereotypes, Metro Man always wins and never loses while Megamind becomes his constant punchline.  Naturally, there's a Lois Lane-ish damsel-in-distress (who's never in distress) in the form of intrepid TV news reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey) and a right-hand evil minion named, well, Minion (David Cross) to complete the equation. 

But what would happen if one of the supervillain's hair-brained schemes actually worked for once?  What if Megamind actually took out Metro Man?  What would a city do with a supervillain in charge?  What would Megamind do with himself with no more challenges to hatch?  What would happen if a new hero tried to emerge to take Metro Man's place?  It's in this way that Megamind tackles and covers fascinating and uncharted ground.  Not only is this kind of story become interesting to the adult viewers, but very cool for the kids who get to root for the bad guy.

The voice casting in Megamind is priceless across the board.  Will Ferrell does this kind of "muhahahaha" work well and channels a little inner-Mugato from Zoolander.  Tina Fey is always good and Brad Pitt, as aforementioned, is the perfect choice to play the dashing and cocky hunk hero.  Jonah Hill rounds out the cast as the Jimmy Olsen-ish sidekick and forlorn worshiper of Roxanne Ritchi.  Dreamworks, as usual with their Shrek franchise success, brought out the big guns for quality.  The animation is nearly Pixar-perfect in detail and the action is very well done.  We even get treated to an adventurous big-time musical score from Hans Zimmer of Inception and The Dark Knight.  Across the board, Megamind is exactly what it's supposed to be: a fun crowd pleaser for the holiday season.  The best part is that it's funny and exciting enough for the adults that you're not going to mind this one making 35 turns in the DVD player someday.

LESSON #1: VILLAINS ARE PEOPLE TOO-- They might be evil and misguided in their goals and intentions, but, deep down, villains are people too.  They have a heart filled with hopes and fears just like anyone else and seek to share their lives with someone special, even if, for now it's a robotic fish bowl.

LESSON #2: THE INEVITABLE CRASH THAT COMES FROM ACHIEVING A GOAL--  In our lives, we see this with champion sports teams.  They build and work all season with the hunger and drive to win a championship.  The heightened pressure and stress pushes them.  Once they achieve that victorious goal, there's a relief, release, and letdown that equals the jubilation.  Trying to repeat that success once you've tasted and had it or maintaining that level of drive, stress, pressure, and motivation the next time around after finishing a big goal is is very difficult.

LESSON #3: LOVE CAN CHANGE A PERSON AND MAKE THEM DO THINGS THEY DIDN'T USE TO DO-- Single people are always a little rough around the edges when out on their own.  They are brash, self-reliant, guarded, and set in their commonly destructive bad habits.  However, when the right person comes around, those previously lonely people start to do funny things to conform and be accepted by their significant other.  They might even completely change who they used to be and, most of the time, that change is an improvement.