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Megamind: It doesn't take one to see this cartoon's flaws

2 out of 4 stars


It's a bird, it's a plane, it's … an ill-bred alien with a blue face, green eyes and a fat mean streak. Sorry kiddies, but Superman is gone and the sad fact is hard upon us: These days, heroes are scarce even in cartoons.

Recently, Despicable Me toyed with that fact in witty ways, twisting the genre into amusingly weird shapes. Now, Megamind tries to do the same. Tries, yet lacks the courage of its wicked convictions - the plot is rich, the execution poor.

Nothing wrong with the opening gambit, which doubles as a new spin on the old nature/nurture debate. From separate locales deep in the galaxy, a pair of baby E.T.s rocket down to planet Earth, specifically to the vertical sprawl of Metro City. Oops, that blue-faced one lands on the wrong side of the tracks smack dab in the midst of a prison, and, under the cons' tutelage, grows up to become the villainous Megamind (Will Ferrell).

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The other finds sanctuary in the loving arms of the middle-class, and matures into the chisel-jawed, right-thinking, ultra-bland Metro Man (Brad Pitt). Seems that nurture has taken its toll.

From there, of course, our battling MMs do what good and evil must. Yep, in their very struggle, they justify each other's existence. (Note to any pre-Socratic scholars in the preschool audience: Heraclitus would be delighted by such a unity of opposites.)

Happily for the fate of the world and the perpetually imperilled Roxanne (Tina Fey), the goodly Metro Man wins out at the end of the day - at least until that late afternoon when he meets his mortal end. It's time for the blue baddie, along with his minion Minion, to despotically rule Metro City and, what's worse, to give the place a whole different inflection - now it rhymes with "atrocity."

That sound gag is funnier than any of the sights here. Deploying the 3-D wizardry de rigueur in cartoonland, director Tom McGrath insures that donning those damned glasses offers these visual rewards: 1) A vast spray of popcorn bursting right into our collective face, a not-so-subliminal reminder to visit the concession booth; 2) The usual array of pointy objects, with the ante upped to include an entire needle-nosed skyscraper; 3) A curious - some might say unseemly - obsession with Roxanne's impressively grown-up and grown-out protuberances. Bespectacled kids of all ages are left to pick their favourite enhancement.

Meanwhile, reigning solo with no one to fight, villainy is facing an "existential" crisis. Since a hero can't be found, Megamind hits upon an obvious solution: He creates one, endowing Hal the pudgy slacker (Jonah Hill) with a muscular girth, a smorgasbord of superpowers and the nifty new handle of Tighten (love the pun but, alas, it can't be heard on the screen).

But when Tighten proves to have some very loose morals, Evil is obliged to cross the spectrum, transform himself into the force of Good, and do the inevitable - you know, save the city, see the light, get the girl and then get boring, sermonizing until he's, well, bluer in the face.

Gotta love the tale's moral, though, which goes exactly like this: "Destiny is not the path given us, but the path we choose for ourselves." Huh? It doesn't take a megamind to parse the contradiction in that little homily. If destiny can be chosen, then it ain't destiny. That's the flick's one real feat of cartoon magic: It restores the fight between good and evil even while making that other battle, between free will and determinism, disappear without a trace.

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  • Directed by Tom McGrath
  • Written by Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons
  • Starring the voices of Will Ferrell, Tina Fey and Brad Pitt
  • Classification: PG

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