Judge Patrick Bromley is just plain mega.
Giving bad a good name.
2010 was the year of the children's animated film about supervillains turning over a new leaf. First was Universal's Despicable Me, a huge success featuring a former sketch comedian (Steve Carell) as the voice of a villain who's not entirely bent on world domination. Following closely in its footsteps (the Volcano to Despicable Me's Dante's Peak; the Armageddon to its Deep Impact) comes Dreamworks Animation's Megamind, featuring a former sketch comedian as the voice of a villain…well, you get the idea.
Facts of the Case
Once upon a time, two babies arrived on Earth from outer space. One was adopted by an upper-class family and raised to be perfect; not surprisingly, he went on to become the muscle-bound Metro Man, defender of Metro City (and voiced by the equally perfect Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). The other, a blue-skinned, giant-headed alien, is dropped into a prison and raised as a criminal calling himself Megamind (Will Ferrell, Land of the Lost). Using his superior intellect and well-honed criminal tendencies, Megamind becomes the greatest supervillain ever known, devoting his life to fighting Metro Man and constantly kidnapping Metro City's ace reporter, Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey, Date Night). On the day that Metro City dedicates a museum to its hero, Megamind and Metro Man have their greatest showdown—one that changes their relationship forever and leaves Megamind wondering: What now?
If you saw the trailer for Dreamworks Animation's Megamind when it played in theaters (just a few short months ago; the window from theatrical release to home video really is shrinking at an alarming rate), don't be fooled: what you saw in that trailer only covers the first fifteen minutes of the movie. That's an incredible rarity in Hollywood trailers these days, which seem bent on exposing every single beat of a movie lest the audience not know exactly what they're in for every step of the way. It also means that there are a number of surprising turns in Megamind, and that's a rare thing, too—especially in an animated movie directed at children. It's a minor thrill these days to be sitting in a movie and not know exactly where it's going at every minute. Of course, given that Megamind is essentially a kids' cartoon, it's pretty easy to figure out where things are going to end up. It's more the getting there that offers some nice surprises.
Like Monsters vs. Aliens before it, Megamind is the kind of movie that sounds great on paper—it takes specific genre tropes that nerds like me are hard-wired to respond to and has fun turning them upside down. But, like Monsters vs. Aliens before it, Megamind is only partially successful (the latter is considerably more successful than the former). It introduces a fairly ingenious plot and, for a little while, actually subverts a lot of the familiar elements of the superhero genre (more so than its supervillain-as-hero-of-a-children's-movie competition last year, Despicable Me). I like that Megamind takes place in an exaggerated comic book universe, from the title character's enormous blue cranium to the ridiculous physique of hero Metro Man (though Brad Pitt feels a little out of place doing the character's voice) down to the name Metro City (which Megamind constantly refers to as Metrocity, a gag that only Will Ferrell could pull off). The animation is generally slick and attractive, with Megamind himself faring best—probably because he's the most cartoony. Some of the human characters still don't quite work (a common criticism in computer animated movies since the original Toy Story first hit theaters), making one wish the filmmakers had gone for a more exaggerated style for everyone.
Unfortunately, like Megamind himself, Megamind isn't totally sure what to do once the big twist comes fairly on the movie. Though I'm sure a lot of viewers will really enjoy the middle section of the movie—which, at the very least, does afford Will Ferrell the opportunity to goof on Marlon Brando playing Jor-El in the original Superman—it felt like Megamind was just biding its time before it got to where it needed to go. Thankfully, things pick up in the final act with even more surprising (and fairly subversive) twists and a rousing finale. Megamind also has some interesting things to say about ideas of nature-versus-nuture, but I'm guessing most of its audience isn't paying attention to those messages. They just like the funny guy with the big blue head.
As has essentially become the standard now, Megamind arrives in a very impressive high-def package for its Blu-ray release. The 2.35:1 widescreen image is bright and colorful with a reasonable amount of detail, though it lacks the fine definition Monsters vs. Aliens or most of the Pixar catalogue. It's definitely not the best animated title available on the format, but still looks good and is a lot of fun on a visual level. Sonically speaking, Megamind is considerably better, with a reference-quality 7.1 TrueHD track that will give your system a heck of a workout. Dialogue is always presented cleanly in the center channel, while the surrounding and rear speakers are devoted to the movie's flurry of activity. It's not all gimmicky stuff, either; there's a surprising amount of restraint and depth to the track that makes it more than just a display of audio cartwheels. It's a lot of fun.
There's an embarrassment of riches when it comes to Megamind's supplemental features—enough to keep fans of the film busy for hours, if not days. As has become the standard with Dreamworks Animation's Blu-ray releases (all of the Shrek films were modeled the same way), there's a pair of commentary tracks…sort of. The first track is a feature called "The Animator's Corner," which is a picture-in-picture option that acts as a standard commentary supplemented by storyboards, concept art, animation tests, interviews and more. Much of the discussion featured here is actually repeated on the standard, audio-only commentary track featuring director Tom McGrath, producers Denise Nolan Cascino and Lara Breay and screenwriters Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons. It's an entertaining and informative track, but because of the number of participants involved and their excitement over the movie, there's a tendency for everyone to talk over one another. Plus, like I said, there's a lot of overlap between this and "The Animator's Corner;" only the hardcore fans are likely to devote themselves to both tracks. Casual viewers may want to choose one or the other. A trivia track that plays over the entire film is also available.
Up next are some standard promotional and making-of featurettes: "Meet the Cast of Megamind, which is easily the fluffiest but which features the most star power; "Inside Megamind's Lair," which examines a number of character and prop designs; a collection of concept art pieces called "Behind the Mind" and "AnimatorMan," a very short (but neat) look at the movie's animators and their process. There are some fairly cool interactive features included as well: "Comic Creator," which allows viewers to construct their own comic panels using images from the movie and a host of predetermined dialogue (you can even save your creation) and "You Can Draw Megamind," a how-to featurette on drawing the title character.
Finally, there are those bonus features that are directed specifically at young viewers, including a rap song called "Mega Rap," a single deleted scene, a comic book featured called "The Reign of Megamind," an interactive gamed called "Spot the Difference" (just what it sounds like), a Dreamworks Animation jukebox feature that includes songs from How to Train Your Dragon, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and the Shrek series and some trailers for upcoming Dreamworks Animation titles so the kids can start begging their parents to go see Kung Fu Panda 2 nice and early. The last—and arguably best—bonus feature is an all-new 15-minute animated short called Megamind: The Button of Doom, which features the characters from the movie and is presented in 1080p HD and 7.1 surround sound. If you're a big fan of Megamind, consider The Button of Doom more of a good thing.
A standard definition DVD copy of the movie is also included.
2010 was a good year for Dreamworks Animation, who finally stepped out of Pixar's enormous shadow with the outstanding How to Train Your Dragon (their first effort that, for my money, out-Pixars Pixar). While Megamind isn't of the same quality as Dragon, at least it's not a giant leap backwards. There's a lot to like in the movie, and it's certainly ambitious and often fun to look at. By the end, though, it's a little too messy and minor to achieve classic status.
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