EXPECTATIONS: For a number of reasons, I've been dreading this Megamind movie for months. The character's stupid, smug face grinning down at me before every movie I go to, the ad campaign giving away pretty much the entire plot of the film and the single worst commercial I've ever seen for a major motion picture; all these things add up to a movie that alienates me at every turn even though it should be right up my alley. Maybe David Cross and the rest of the talent involved can salvage a movie that looks otherwise thoroughly irritating.
Yeah, and maybe Marmaduke will win an Academy Award.
REALITY: Megamind is a movie whose existence I find altogether puzzling. The last ten years have seen superhero movies run through pretty much every narrative permutation known to man. Villains have become heroes, heroes have become villains, heroes get cut down like bitches ... we've seen it all. Hell, Despicable Me already mined the "nice-guy supervillain" angle earlier this summer. Dreamworks Animation has already had two inexplicably huge hits this year. What more could they possibly offer? A better question might be "How much more of our money could they possibly want?"
"All of them," says the dastardly Dreamworks executive while clutching his pet cat. "All of the monies."
This movie, from the same director who blessed the world with two films about dancing giraffes, begins by telling the completely original story of Megamind (Will Ferrell), a bobble-headed alien who's grown up on Earth to become the resident supervillain of Metro City. Standing in his way is Metro Man (Brad Pitt, trying desperately to not be noticed). During one of their many battles, Megamind accidentally murders Metro Man with the whole city watching. In his subsequent reign over the city, Megamind and his alien-fish-in-a-robot-suit minion (David Cross) realize that life isn't much fun without a superhero. They then set about creating a new superhero named Titan (Jonah Hill), originally the cameraman for reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey). Complications, romances and hijinks ensue for better or for worse. Mostly for the worse.
Speaking of which, the single worst thing about this entire enterprise isn't that it's ridiculous looking or poorly conceived or even irritating in any way. No, the worst thing about Megamind is that it just plain isn't funny. I saw this movie at 1:00 PM on Friday afternoon in a theater full of kids (I left grade school years ago, but that shit still lasts until 4 o'clock, right?). Anyway, for 96 minutes, a theater full of eight-year-olds, teachers, parents, bottom-tier film critics and myself sat in silence. No laughs, not even a titter. There are plenty of jokes in the movie, and not a single one of them landed for anybody. Maybe the adults didn't find Megamind's constant mispronouncing of words very funny. Maybe the kids didn't get the wacky misuse of '80s heavy metal tunes. Maybe I just hate Will Ferrell. Whatever the reason, Megamind at least succeeded at sucking all the joy and laughter out of the room.
My, what whimsical character design.
One thing I can say in the movie's favor is that it doesn't use pop culture references and fart jokes as a crutch the way that so many Dreamworks films before it have. While it does use superhero cliches pretty liberally, it really doesn't name-check anything. Still, that doesn't stop the movie from licensing every "safe" heavy metal song it can find and using them as Megamind's theme music. "Highway to Hell," "Crazy Train," "Welcome to the Jungle," nothing is safe from the long arm of Megamind's licensing menace. It uses these songs to pump up the audience the same way a college football game does, only at a football game they stop the music once the play begins. You haven't known true embarrassment until you've seen a blue-headed idiot skipping and prancing down the street to the vocal stylings of Bon Scott.
Which brings to mind something that's been bothering me a lot lately. Why does every animated movie these days have to end with a ridiculous dance party? Megamind ends with everyone dancing around like a bunch of jackasses to Michael Jackson's "Bad"; Despicable Me wrapped up with a disco party; Toy Story 3 even had the audacity to end with a bunch of toys dancing around. What's going on here? There must have been a memo going around the Hollywood animation studios this year. I'll bet it read something like this:
"ATTENTION ALL COMPUTER NERDS:
THE KIDS AREN'T LAUGHING. MAKE EVERYTHING BOOGIE OR PACK UP YOUR SHIT.
The joke was on them, because the kids still didn't laugh. I always make it a point to sit through the credits for every movie I watch, but if this dance-party crap is going to become the norm, I may as well start leaving as soon as the movie ends. I don't understand why these people think making us watch cartoon characters dance badly is so damn funny. Maybe the joke is on us. Yeah, let's go with that.
My other big sticking point with Megamind is the art style. I've had a full year of over-exposure to get used to it, but I simply can't. For every scene that takes place in a beautifully rendered cityscape or rainy back-alley, we have to endure some truly creepy character designs. Judging from the looks on everyone's faces, I'm guessing Metro City is located somewhere near the bottom of the Uncanny Valley. The faces look disturbingly real, yet the general body designs are just cartoony enough to still look like cartoons. The only thing I can figure is that someone over at Dreamworks must have reanimated Norman Rockwell and forced him to catch up on modern art by reading nothing but Frank Miller comics.
Megamind isn't necessarily a bad movie; it just lacks all the hallmarks of a good one. I would say it's coming out a day late and a dollar short, but it's clear that the movie cost a shitload to make and they took their sweet goddamn time in making it. Megamind sucking isn't something that happened by accident. Computer artists and voice actors spent the better part of two years, maybe three, carefully constructing every aspect of this ridiculous movie, resulting in something that's neither very funny nor particularly entertaining.
Oh well, at least we'll always have the Megamind rap.
|Proper Use of Licensed Music||2/10|
|Does Someone Have Dirt on David Cross?||Apparently|
MINORITY REPORT: Megamind! Mega-mega-megamind, bitch! Yeah, motherfucker! Megamind! They call him Megamind because he's got a... big... brain.
Motherfuckers! -da Megamind rappers, yo!
Do you wish to know what computers will be doing in the year to come? With a sigh I shall exert the minimal effort it takes to reveal all. Feel free to print out these predictions and share them with your friends via fax.
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