One Track Mind

“Megamind” is your typical story — the hero and antihero live parallel childhoods, grow up to become each other’s arch nemeses and wage war for control of a generic urban center (in this case, the aptly named Metro City.)  But the movie doesn’t suffer much from its ho-hum premise — the flick’s class-A cast and clean-cut animation lend it a winning charm that powers through the dopey premise and occasional plot pitfalls.

We’re introduced to the film’s leading men: the dashing, dimpled and coiffed Metro Man (Brad Pitt), who frequently thwarts the clumsily inept villain, Megamind (Will Farrell). Megamind’s plans usually consist of ill-conceived schemes, which rarely achieve anything more than pissing off kidnap victim and local reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey).  Then, as a fluke, Megamind destroys the dapper Metro Man and finds himself faced with a dilemma: an excess of free time. Feeling blue, he sets out to create a new superhero from Ritchi’s doting cameraman, Hal (Jonah Hill), triggering a revolving door of heroism where every character gets a turn to play the good guy.

From his dramatic Dracula-esque costume fixings and spandex to his unapologetically badass landing strip of facial hair, the chief villain’s character design emanates evil, but it’s Farrell who breathes personality into this powder-blue criminal. Farrell’s performance is heroic; he cackles in a tense, pompous accent that contrasts nicely to Pitt’s suave drawl. Likewise, Fey’s talent is equally well placed as the sharp and sarcastic Ritchi, who lampoons the overdone comic book formula (“Can someone stamp my frequent kidnapping card?”).

The plot’s overall effect is surprising — grown-ups will get a kick out of a storyline that turns the typical good vs. evil paradigm inside out, but tykes might be left in the dust.  Characters each have their turn playing villain, and though “Megamind” delivers its happily ever after, the youngest moviegoers might lose track of who they should cheer for.

But “Megamind” isn’t completely devoid of kiddy charm. Child geeks will rejoice — the sci-fi gadgets in this flick may be numerous, and structurally improbable (what the hell is a dehydration gun?), but they add to the film’s novelty.

The film’s animation mixes with the script’s quirky personalities to create an aesthetic that glows, snaps and shines with effort, which helps to realize improbabilities like large-scale explosions and armies of pygmy robots.

And while even a kid’s action flick necessitates a degree of violence, “Megamind” rarely surpasses mischief and slapstick. Dreamworks really did try to make this endeavor as wholesome as possible — characters even avoid the dreaded “d” word: die.

For those of us who don’t need a booster seat, there are enough funnies littered throughout to keep you upright. There’s a surprising number of references that youngsters will completely miss out on, including allusions to President Barack Obama. Sadly, the film’s jokes grow sparse as the action builds.

Had “Megamind” been with blessed with unrestricted reign — rather than being boxed by the limitations of a children’s film — the tipping point between good and evil would have served as interesting societal commentary. Instead, the film remains a trite, though humorous, venture. And, thankfully, with two SNL alums in the driver’s seat, we somehow pull through. (B-)

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