“Megamind” was the kind of movie I expected “Despicable Me” to be when I walked into the theater; a DreamWorks Animation film. It soon turned out that “Despicable Me” was actually a Universal Picture and not from DreamWorks. Since I have been so addicted to and in love with the computer animated epics from Pixar, I felt it was time to see how the other studios compared (if at all). For once, I would be seeing a DreamWorks animated movie without “Shrek” in the title.
But “Despicable Me” and “Megamind” do have one thing in common in that their main character is a villain, one who looks to get the most press for his devious accomplishments. The latter is set around an interesting question: what if the bad guy actually ended up defeating the hero? What would happen then? Whether or not that person works as a banker on Wall Street is beside the point. The villain finds that having all the power he desires doesn’t compare to the struggle of getting it in the first place.
The movie has a great start as it satirizes “Superman” in showing how Megamind himself (voiced by Will Ferrell) is put in a rocket by his parents and sent away to a world that isn’t on the verge of dying. Along the way, his spaceship comes into contact with another whose occupant is goody two shoes Metro Man (voiced by Brad Pitt) who ends up throwing Megamind off course to another destination on Earth. While Metro Man ends up crashing into the home of a loving well to do family, Megamind lands inside a maximum security prison and right in front of hardened inmates. Being that this is a movie for the whole family, we never see this villain in an HBO “Oz” setting or bending over for the soap.
From there, it’s a battle of wits and smarts between Metro Man and Megamind whose resentment from childhood remains unabated. But what I thought was going to be an average movie about good guys versus bad guys really surprised me in the direction it ended up taking. It’s really about Megamind getting exactly what he wants, and soon become bored because there is no one left to fight. Where he goes from there just might surprise you (I strongly stress the word “might”).
What works to the film’s advantage is how knowledgeable it is of the superhero movies we grew up with, namely “Superman.” It gleefully plays around with the superhero’s ego and how it typically gets the best of him, and of how the villain’s evil plans are no longer as scary as they are intended to be. It even gets to where TV reporter Roxanne Ritchi (voiced by Tina Fey) is actually rolling her eyes at Megamind’s threat to drop her into a watery hole with alligators (or are they crocodiles?). Once the movie does take an unexpected left turn, the story does get kind of conventional, but it becomes something that it wasn’t really advertised as.
I have to give Will Ferrell a lot of credit here because he usually just plays the same character over and over in each film he does. When it works like in movies such like “The Other Guys,” its no big deal because we are too busy laughing our asses off. But in “Megamind,” I actually forgot that it was Will Ferrell doing the voice after awhile. That’s saying a lot because his voice is so recognizable after all those years on “Saturday Night Live.” Here, we see and hear a specific character more than the man who gave us the most memorable impersonation of George W. Bush. It also probably helps that Megamind doesn’t look all that much like Ferrell, and that would still be the case if his skin weren’t so blue.
Other celebrity voices featured in “Megamind” include Brad Pitt’s who is a big hoot as the Superman-like Metro Man. Brad’s voice perfectly exudes self-confidence as he has the whole world at his feet, and it’s a great satirical take on the overbearing ego that superheroes have at their disposal and which can easily turn on them if they’re not careful. Listening to him made me wonder how much time he actually spent in the studio recording the dialogue. My guess is about one to two weeks, maybe a month. This must have been one of the easiest jobs for him.
Tina Fey brings her usual perky voice to the role as Roxanne Ritchi, and her sarcastic bite is always a lot of fun to take in. Jonah Hill, fresh off of “Get Him To The Greek” and “Cyrus,” is picture perfect as Roxanne’s cameraman Hal, who of course has the biggest crush on her which remains unrequited like most crushes are. When his heart gets shattered, he ends up doing what most guys do; destroy things at random. It actually took a bit to recognize his voice, but the hilarious David Cross is an inspired piece of casting as the voice of Minion, the henchman (or hench-fish) to Megamind and his devious plans. Other actors featured here are J.K. Simmons who voiced the Warden, Ben Stiller as Bernard, and Justin Theroux as Megamind’s father. Those last three voices I didn’t even recognize until I saw their names in the end credits (or for that matter, IMDB).
I did see “Megamind” in 3D, and the filmmakers actually made really good use of the format. It really gave more excitement to certain scenes like when the characters are on the top of very tall buildings, and I almost got a strong sense of vertigo. Ok, perhaps I am exaggerating a bit in saying that, but it’s still on my mind long after having sat through it. The technology of 3D has truly advanced to being beyond just a mere gimmick, but Hollywood has been abusing it for the extra profit to where the use of it becomes pointless. “Megamind” turns out to be one of the best examples of 3D I have seen this year, and for once I didn’t mind spending an extra couple bucks.
Directing “Megamind” is Tom McGrath who was also responsible for one of several DreamWorks animated movies I have not yet seen, “Madagascar.” I liked a lot of the stuff he came up with here visually. While the animation might not be on the same level as in Pixar movies, there is still a lot of attention put into the detail that’s very impressive. This is especially the case when taking into account the design of the city featured as it looks quite realistic in hindsight. There’s also that little dig at the iconic Obama poster which also made for a good laugh.
Look, it’s not like I expected “Megamind” to be bad or at best a decent times at the movies, but it turned out to be far better than I expected it to be. Like the best Pixar movies, it works as great entertainment not just for kids but for adults as well. It’s a clever take on superheroes, and that makes it one of the more entertaining movies of the 2010 fall season. DreamWorks Animation may still be in the shadow of Pixar, but this shows that they are moving up their game some, and it looks like they may start making more than mere products for consumption.
***½ out of ****