Critical Mass: 'Megamind'
Forbes just named Will Ferrell Hollywood's most overpaid actor, but the star has a chance to make those editors immediately eat their words with the release this weekend of his animated film, "Megamind." DreamWorks Animation scored a major critical and box office hit earlier this year with "How to Train Your Dragon"; will "Megamind" follow the same path?
The Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey seems to think so. She treats the crowd-pleasing family comedy with surprising seriousness in her positive review, writing "the larger question the filmmakers are soon onto is what happens to the bad guy when the good guy is out of the picture. What is the price of media adulation? Why do we always expect someone else to solve our problems? Well, it's complicated but so au courant."
Count the Philadelphia Inquirer's Steven Rea as a fan too. It seems the more familiarity the critics have with "Megamind's" source of satire, the greater their personal entertainment. Rea has fun picking out the influences: "The movie's visual wit is evident in its salutes to the likes of Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' and Rube Goldberg's famously complicated contraptions. 'Megamind' ... owes something, too, to Brad Bird's 'The Incredibles.' The films share a cheeky but affectionate approach to comic-book mythologies, and a keen sense of design. 'Megamind' isn't as inventive, but it's fun, and funny stuff."
NPR's Bob Mondello also seemed to enjoy himself, happy to laugh along with all the "Superman"-inspired gags and totally unmindful of whether or not the little ones will catch it all. "The kiddie set can chortle at 'Megamind's' slapstick and its goofy one-upmanship while adults get a kick out of all the smart spatial tricks that highlight the 3-D effects, plus a running joke in which Ferrell channels Marlon Brando as Jor-El. Kids watching 'Megamind' will have no idea why you're laughing at that, but that's a good thing, right? There'll be plenty of time later on for them to become meta-mindful."
But hold up there, DreamWorks. Not everyone's in love with Megamind's villainy. The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips remembers seeing "Despicable Me" earlier this year and isn't too impressed with "Megamind." The difference? "This villain's blue." Phillips calls "Megamind" "immoderately derivative" and admonishes us all like a character from the "Battlestar Galactica" revamp: "You have seen all this before."
The animated review crew at Spill.com weren't "Megamind's" biggest fans, either. They couldn't even be bothered to give their review of the film their full animated treatment -- we have to settle for an audio-only review instead. They echo Phillips' sentiments, telling us, "We've seen this before. Not only have we seen this before, we saw this this year." Another guy tells us, "I never got more than a chuckle out of this movie."
But in the end, it may be all about what the kids think of this film, and in that regard, the only thing parents might have to worry about is boredom. Parent Previews reviewer Kerry Bennet cautions against the "introspective second act [that] may fail to hold the attention of younger viewers." But she does give a green light to older kids, whom she feels will appreciate the "engaging twist to the superhero genre and more rounded characters than most animations."
-- Patrick Kevin Day
Photo: "Megamind" / DreamWorks Animation