The modern animated film is becoming an increasingly hard thing to pull off right. The juggernaut that is Pixar has set the bar so high in recent years that other like films rarely achieve the same quality. This is the case with Dreamwork’s “Megamind,” a diverting movie filled with humor, some bizarre Will Farrell jokes, which never measures up to the example made by John Lasseter and company. Pixar movies like “Up” or “Wall-E” manage to find a happy medium between the giggle inducing colorful antics of a kid’s movie, and the thoughtful poignancy of an adult feature. Dreamworks always seems to aim lower with their pictures, striving to merely entertain instead of engage. Despite its strength at the box office last year’s “How to Train Your Dragon” suffered from the syndrome, as does “Megamind.”
The beginning of the film is promising, as it details how Megamind (Will Farrell), and his eventual rival Metroman (Brad Pitt), came to Earth, the mythology the same as that of Superman; each is evacuated from their respective planets just as the worlds are destroyed. As Megamind and Metroman’s upbringings are detailed the film tries to set up an examination of how race and socio-economics factor into how criminals are formed. Metroman’s escape pod lands in a mansion, and the baby is decidedly white. Megamind’s lands in a jail – a thinly veiled “ghetto” analog – and he is, let’s say, a person of color (blue). From the get go on Planet Earth one child is bestowed every advantage, while the other is forced to work hard for acceptance. Metroman shines at everything, but Megamind cannot seem to win over the love of his peers. He subsequently turns to doing bad in an effort to attract attention.
The two grow into adulthood. Megamind, the repeat offender, has spent most of his life behind bars, never being rehabilitated, but rather just sent away to rot. Metroman on the other hand, has flourished becoming the savior of Metrocity. Their battles have been legendary, but the Blue bad guy never seems to win. He is always kept down by “The Man.” However when Metroman is suddenly out of the picture, Megamind is given the opportunity to rise up, become the good guy, the leader of men he believes is his destiny. He doesn’t. Instead he decides to create a new rival, Titan (Jody Hill), who is just another excuse for Megamind to shirk greatness. By setting Megamind up as an obvious “Minority” at the beginning of the film the idea that these minorities are essentially keeping themselves from the greatness they so richly deserves is a bizarre theme to subtly implant into a kid’s movie.
The character design also plays into this ideal. Megamind is rarely seen in anything other than orange prison overalls, or some sort of S&M pimp outfit from the seventies, equipped with knee high platform boots and a cape. His bald head and sculpted goatee make him look like a blue NBA player, and lets not forget his coloring in general. Most, if not all, of the other inhabitants of Metrocity seem to be of the Caucasian persuasion excepting those in the jail Megamind grew up in, and the titular hero himself. In fact his only way to win the heart of the girl of his dreams, Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey), is to pose as an erudite white man, complete with blazer and turtleneck.
When Megamind is finally forced to step up to the plate, and become a hero the film lays the responsibility for minorities to succeed in life at their own feet. At the end it is not about nature versus nurture, “Megamind” says that success in life is not based on where you come from, but what you are willing to achieve.
The race aspect of the film would have made for an interesting picture if it had not been buried so far into the subtext that very few viewers will even recognize it. For the most part the film is a goofy turn on the super-hero film that offers little headway into deconstructing that genre. The slap-sticky humor, and weird interplay between Farrell and David Cross, who lends his voice to Megamind’s sidekick, Minion, is funny and entertaining. There is good comedic talent all around with Fey and Hill in the mix, and even Pitt shows his funny bone.
But the film is merely forgettable. Enjoyable and forgettable. Race issues aside the film gets points for its comedy. The animation is slick and exciting at times, but never ground breaking. The most one can hope for is adequacy from “Megamind,” and it looks like from Dreamworks Animation as well. All of their films seem to be aiming for just that. Maybe they should take their own advice, and push forward, take their destiny into their own hands, aim a little higher, and realize their own potential.
El Luchador Rating:
Review By: Paul S. Myers (a.k.a. El Luchador)