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We I gather together my two best friends to watch a film we literally have over seven thousand titles in my collection to choose from. With such a vast variety of films and television series to make our selection our collective favorites typically seem to fall in one genre; modern animated feature films. Most of the time, the decision comes down to a selection from either Disney/Pixar or Dreamworks; the current leaders in the field. As a matter of record my favorite films of the year for the past few years have come from one of these studios. The genre has moved far past the cartoons or even the animated films we grew up with to become a means of telling a story that is so powerful and respectable that the Academy Awards created a specific category to honor the best of these films. The latest of these movies that made it to our family viewing night was the one under consideration here; ‘Megamind’. While it lacks the warmth and heart of ‘Up’ or ‘Wall-E’, ‘Megamind remains and excellent example of the state of the art for computed aided animation. This appears to be fully consistent with the inherent difference that currently exists between Pixar and Dreamworks. Both are about equal in their ability to render incredible artwork but Pixar has the edge when it comes to infusing heart into their films. Even with this one caveat the entire family will certainly enjoy this movie albeit for slightly different reasons. The younger set will love the strange creatures and goofy situations while the grown-ups can add to their enjoyment identifying the super hero archetypes and the classic heavy metal songs that drive the soundtrack. It really does matter which aspect of the movie most appeals to you, this is a film you will want to revisit whenever you need a little fun in your life. The movie was presented in the theaters using the modern format for 3D but so far the only formats released for home theater use is Blu-ray and standard DVD. At this point the new Blu-ray high definition format is not included.

One thing I found remarkable about this film is the fact that the co-authors of the screenplay, Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons are new to this particular aspect of the industry. This is their freshman effort and even with that in mind it comes across as an engaging and funny script. The lack of a firm, emotional core here may rate it just below an offering from Pixar but it will barely be noticed by the younger set. This is consistent with the general observation that movies from Dreamworks are skewed younger than those from Pixar/Disney. Considering this is their first time out this pair did capture the essence of the type of film they are satirizing; the super hero flick. The element of this movie that best addresses the parents is the numerous references to the genre. in order for a script to turn a genre head over heels as is done here the writers have to fully understand the tenants of this type of story. In this particular instance the authors nailed the spoof. Many of the laughs my friends and I experienced were due to the expertly crafted use of familiar scenes, dialogue or setting. Emulating the career path employed by the Disney Studios for their animated film directors Tom McGrath started in the art department working on storyboards for ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’. He was a primary writer for the ‘Madagascar’ franchise and took on directing with the ‘Ren and Stimpy’ animated TV series. While I was watching the film for the first time I caught myself noting how impressed I was with the cinematography, lighting and use of camera angles. It took me a moment to remember that this was an animated feature and those aspects that impressed me but in a virtual world. The level of technology used by Dreamworks has achieved that level where it is not difficult to forget these are not real actors. The new waves of directors are well versed in expressing their stylistic choices in this universe of pure imagination.

Any superhero tale requires an origin story. Here we get the classic. We see a cute little blue baby with a distinctive light bulb shape to his head. This infant will grow up to be Megamind (
voiced by Will Ferrell)., but first his parents place him in a space craft to send him and his trusty fish minion (Voiced by David Cross) in to a space craft top send him to Earth as their planet explodes. Just before he lands another ship bumps him off course. That ship contains the alien infant who will grow up to be Metro Man (voiced by Brad Pitt). That child lands in the home of a fabulously rich and powerful couple Megamind, thrown off that course, lands in a prison for the criminally gifted. Both are strange visitors from another world but their vast difference in environment, upbringing and Metro Man’s genetic predisposition to super powers created into a super hero and the other into his evil arch nemesis.

For their entire lives the two were antagonistic inevitably with Metro Man emerging as the victor. The two have fallen into a predictable routine involving Megamind kidnapping the beautiful and plucky television news reporter, Roxanne Ritchie (voiced by Tina Fey), who is always rescued by Megamind. Even Roxy is bored to tears at the predictability and repetition of the situation. Unexpectedly Megamind succeeds in killing Metro Man leaving the city devoid of a hero. At first Megamind goes wild, stealing anything he wants but without a superhero to stop him there is no fun left in his life. He finally uses some Metro Man’ DNA to create a super power infuser which he accidentally uses on Roxy’s cubby, inept cameraman, Hal Stewart (voiced by Jonah Hill). Once he has all of Metro Man’s super human abilities he turns evil intoxicated by his own powers. Both Megamind and Hal are in love with Roxy but Megamind can only see her with a holographic disguise as Bernard (voiced by Ben Stiller). In short order Titan, Hal’s new name, has destroyed Metro City leaving it to Megamind to save it, in order to do that he must go against a lifelong inclination by turning good.

Ultimately, the movie is an excellent choice for an afternoon family fun time. It is imaginative, lively and something that the adults will want to watch repeatedly. This is the classic good versus evil story presented in a uniquely twisted fashion that will offer a trivia test for the parents and a story well within the understanding of the kids. It would have been nice to have this in the new 3D format but I am certain that is soon on the horizon.

Posted 03/08/11

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