MEGAMIND - Blu-ray review

...often shrewd, colorful, witty, and well animated, I found it oddly flat, too.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.
Puccio
William D. Lee's picture
William
Lee

Note: In the following joint Blu-ray review both John and Will review the film, with John also writing up the Video, Audio, Extras, and Parting Thoughts.

The Film According to John:
If DreamWorks had not released their 2010 animated family film "Megamind" the same year Universal released their similarly themed "Despicable Me" or Pixar released "Toy Story 3" or DreamWorks released their own "How to Train Your Dragon," it's possible "Megamind" might have seemed a lot better. As it is, it's still a good, entertaining movie, just not a great one. Nevertheless, the Wife-O-Meter enjoyed it immensely, thinking almost as highly of it as she did the other films I mentioned. Besides which, "Megamind" did wonderfully well with audiences at the box office. So you can't go too far wrong with the movie, even if this critic didn't fall head over heels in love with it.

Of course, my initial reaction to "Megamind" in a theater might have gone more smoothly if I hadn't watched it in 3-D, which I'm beginning to loathe. Wearing the dark 3-D glasses dulled the movie's color, and having to balance the 3-D glasses over my own eyewear was a pain. Then, spilling soda in my lap just as the movie started kind of put a damper on the first fifteen minutes. I have to say, it was actually a pleasure to watch the film in ordinary old 2-D at home, enjoy the vibrant Blu-ray hues, and not worry about soggy jeans.

Anyway, "Megamind" concerns a super-villain who calls himself Megamind (voiced by Will Ferrell) coming from another planet to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Well, not exactly, but he is brilliant, a genius with an abnormally large brain, who decides to use his intellect for evil. How evil? He wears custom-made baby seal boots. As he puts it, he is "criminally gifted," and he has a right-hand fish, Minion (David Cross), to help him out with his nefarious plans. Besides, the world already has a superhero in Metro Man (Brad Pitt), Megamind's rival, a do-gooder who is not only more handsome than Megamind but has the ability to fly and bend steel in his bare hands, etc., etc. It really pisses off Megamind, so he devotes his life to something he's better at than Metro Man: being bad. The only trouble is, most of Megamind's evil schemes go often awry. Alas....

So, the setup for the story has Megamind getting rid of Metro Man and gaining control of Metro City. When he does, though, he still feels defeated because he doesn't have any more purpose in life. Without good for his evil to battle, what's left? Or, as he puts it, "What's the point of being bad if there's no good to stop you?" He's unhappy. Therefore, he decides to create a new superhero, Titan, or Tighten (Jonah Hill), to thwart. And at the same time he falls in love with a beautiful local newscaster, Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey), who won't give him the time of day because, like, well, he's evil, you know. What a predicament. From that moment on, the romantic angle becomes the focal point of the story.

Some of the film is cute and clever, but on the whole it's more than a little predictable. Some of Ferrell's throwaway lines are also cute and clever, especially whenever one of Megamind's plans falls through; yet the movie's tone can often seem prosaic, our anticipating Megamind's almost every move and seeing the outcome well in advance.

Then, too, the voice characterizations, which should carry the film, are somewhat pedestrian. I doubt, for instance, that I would have recognized Will Ferrell's voice, since he uses an oddball accent throughout the movie. Not that it's a bad thing not to recognize his voice; indeed, it's best that he doesn't draw too much attention to himself. It's just that Ferrell doesn't create a very memorable or interesting voice, just sort of a silly one. As for Brad Pitt, I wouldn't have known it was Pitt at all because Pitt doesn't have a very distinctive voice, so what's the point? The same with Tina Fey, who has a wonderfully strong character without a wonderfully strong voice. In fact, the only actor in the film whose voice does make an impression is Jonah Hill, maybe because the character as drawn on screen actually looks like Jonah Hill. To tell the truth, Hill steals the show. And should I even mention that Ben Stiller voices a nerdy librarian named Bernard, and that Stiller's voice is so intentionally bland it could have been anybody doing it, even an actual nerdy librarian?

Much of the film also feels lackluster, despite all the action, fighting, and flying around that goes on. I can only attribute this dry quality to the director, Tom McGrath, whose previous animated picture, "Madagascar," I liked a lot. Here, he seems bogged down with trying to cram in too much sweetness, too much cleverness, and too many punch lines, the combination simply slackening the pace.

In the end, "Megamind" is really a romantic comedy, and as such it doesn't mesh well with the movie's straight-ahead adventure or screwball humor. Add in the fact that "Megamind" is as much a stand-up comedy routine as it is a traditional action movie, and you get a film that doesn't quite gel in any particular way. Still, it has its moments of fun, excitement, and romance, and for those moments, it may be worth one's while.

"What's your plan?"
"Well, mostly it involves not dying."

John's film rating: 6/10

The Wife-O-Meter's film rating: 7/10

The Film According to Will:
Dreamworks Animation always seems to play second banana to the juggernaut known as Pixar. It's not surprising that Katzenberg and company would be drawn to the story of an ingenious protagonist forced to constantly live in the shadow of a more popular rival.

Will Ferrell heads the all-star cast as the titular Megamind, a blue-skinned, cranially-enhanced super villain who has plagued Metro City for years. The one person who stands in the way of Megamind's quest for world domination is the heroic and square-jawed Metro Man (Brad Pitt). Their feud has been raging since they were babies. On a far away planet, a couple launches their infant son towards the Earth in a rocket ship shortly before their solar system is destroyed by a collapsing star. Meanwhile, another couple on a nearby planet has the same idea. Baby Metro Man lands safe and sound in an opulent mansion where he is raised by loving parents. Baby Megamind's ship is knocked off course and lands in a prison yard. There, the inmates teach the young lad their own twisted sense of right and wrong. Their rivalry extended to grade school as young Metro Man is praised by his classmates and teacher while young Megamind gets quiet time in the corner due to his malfunctioning inventions.

Cut to present day where Metro Man is honored by Metro City with the grand opening of a Metro Man museum. The festivities are interrupted when Megamind once again abducts news reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey). As the Lois Lane of the story, she's grown a blasé attitude to playing the damsel in distress, especially knowing Megamind always loses. That is, until now. Megamind traps Metro Man inside a dome made out of copper, which turns out to be the superhero's one weakness. A death ray fires from above and blasts Metro Man into smithereens.

Along with his right-hand fish, Minion (David Cross), a talking piranha who moves about in a robotic gorilla suit, Megamind struts through the streets of Metro City to the tune of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell." However, his elation turns into a melancholy funk when he realizes evil isn't as much fun without someone to challenge him. Megamind devises a scheme to create a new costumed do-gooder to replace Metro Man. The plan goes predictably awry after Roxanne's goofball cameraman, Hal Stewart (Jonah Hill), is given superpowers. Now known as Titan (though he misspells it as 'Tighten'), Hal decides that destroying the city would be way more cool. Thus, Megamind is forced into the unfamiliar territory of playing the good guy.

Just as "Shrek" had a fractured take on fairy tales, "Megamind" plays fast and loose with the conventions of the superhero genre. Director Tom McGrath ("Madagascar") and screenwriters Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons crib the Superman mythos frequently, from the opening origin sequence to the archetypes of the main characters. Ferrell even gets to riff on Marlon Brando as Jor-El when he dons a holographic disguise to play Tighten's "Space Dad." The disguise looks more like Ted Kennedy with a pompadour than it does the late-Brando. Comic book heroes aren't the only ones to get jabbed as the writers sprinkle plenty of tired pop culture references into the film. Some are obscure (Minion's body is meant to evoke the 1953 B-movie "Robot Monster," the name Hal Stewart refers to two popular Green Lanterns) and others will get a chuckle (there's a twisted take on the iconic Obama posters and a quick "Donkey Kong" inspired action scene), but most fall flat, such as a final dance montage set to Michael Jackson's "Bad." Do all of Dreamworks' animated movies have to end with a dance party?

The story may not be particularly captivating, but the animation in "Megamind" is exceptional and the character designs are reminiscent of "Monsters vs. Aliens." I found myself noticing minor details that I normally don't such as skin tones and the sheen of Megamind's bald, blue skull. Another scene featuring Metro Man flying between the skyscrapers of Metro City is almost breathtaking as are the action sequences. The titanic tussles cause mass destruction and it is all exceptionally detailed.

"Megamind" features some lush visuals and if eye candy is what you crave, I'd say see it. However, if you're looking for substance over style and you don't have children, then "Megamind" should be considered rental material. The animation is great and the voice work solid (with Ferrell bringing his trademark inflections and humor), but the script substitutes real jokes with the same type of lazy pop culture references that sunk another Dreamworks' production, "Shark Tale."

Pixar already said all there needed to be said about animated superhero movies with "The Incredibles." In terms of "super-villain-turned-good" movies, "Megamind" pales in comparison to Universal's "Despicable Me." Dreamworks has shown they are capable of doing better as evidenced by "How to Train You Dragon," one of the year's best films. A mishmash of unrealized ideas, "Megamind" just lacks the heart and the wit of those previous pictures.

Will's film rating: 6/10

Video:
It's CGI and it's from DreamWorks. Of course, it looks good. It should: DreamWorks use a double-layered BD50 and an MPEG-4 AVC codec to transfer it to disc in its 2.35:1 2-D theatrical ratio. The colors are vivid and vibrant, with solid black levels and strong contrasts. Still, the animation doesn't always seem quite up to the highest standards of Pixar or DW's own "How to Train Your Dragon," and there is a very slightly uneven look to it. But I quibble; the PQ is splendid, really.

Audio:
The sonics come to us via lossless Dolby TrueHD 7.1. Obviously, with 7.1 channels to work with, you can't miss. We hear voices, sound effects, explosions, flying debris, echoes, birds, music, and all manner of noise in the front, sides, and rear of the listening area, much of it more subtle than you'd imagine from a cartoon feature. However, the dynamic impact and deepest bass are not as impressive as I expected they would be, and, thus, my lowering of the overall audio rating by a point.

Extras:
The disc's single best bonus is a new, sixteen-minute animated feature, "Megamind: The Button of Doom," in high def. One of Megamind's old evil robots comes back to haunt him in an amusing if somewhat frenetic adventure. After that are four Blu-ray exclusives in high def: "The Animator's Corner," a picture-in-picture affair with behind-the-scenes footage, storyboards, etc.; a trivia track of pop-ups; an interactive "Comic Creator," where you can place your own caption bubbles over key scenes in the movie; and "Behind the Mind," a series of four photo galleries.

Then come the regular extras, many of them also in high definition. These include "Meet the Cast," nine minutes with the voice actors; "Inside Megamind's Lair," seven minutes on the film's gadgets and inventions; "AnimatorMan," two minutes on the film's animation; "You Can Draw Megamind," thirteen minutes on drawing the character; "Mega Rap," a one-minute song; "The Reign of Megamind," a still-scene video comic book; "Spot the Difference," a game played at easy, medium, or hard levels; and a brief deleted scene. Following those items are a filmmakers' commentary with director Tom McGrath, producers Lara Breay and Denise Nolan Cascino, and writers Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons; and a "World of DreamWorks Animation" segment with music from and promos for other DreamWorks movies.

Finally, we get fifteen scene selections; bookmarks; previews of upcoming DW attractions; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese spoken languages; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles; English audio descriptions; and English captions for the hearing impaired.

Moreover, since this is a "2-Disc Combo Pack," it also includes a DVD of the movie in addition to the Blu-ray edition. The keep case (thankfully, not one of those horrid little Eco cases most of the studios seem to be using) comes enclosed in a handsomely embossed slipcover.

Parting Thoughts:
There appears to be no consensus on "Megamind," Will and I finding it merely OK, while the Wife-O-Meter and several other friends and relatives found it above average. While I cannot deny the movie is often shrewd, colorful, witty, and well animated, I found it oddly flat, too, lacking in overall ingenuity and never provoking that all-important sense of wonder or excitement I've felt with really great films. To each his own.

Ratings

Video
9
Audio
9
Extras
9
Film Value
6