What Will Ferrell does better than most anyone else is to step into a character and commit fully to it. This ability to completely wrap himself up in the nuances of the often times off-kilter people he is portraying serves him well in Dreamworks’ animated feature Megamind. Ferrell plays the eponymous lead-role, a blue-skinned alien with a enormous head, who through being a social outcast, has become a Super Villain in Metro City. The arch nemesis of Metro Man, played in a stroke of perfect casting by Brad Pitt, Ferrell’s voicing plays just as one of his oddball characters on Saturday Night Live would play.
As the film gets rolling, we are shown the origins of both Megamind and Metro Man, who also comes from a far off planet. The two visitors from different and distant worlds wind-up taking very different paths. Megamind winds up in a penitentiary, while Metro Man lands in a well-off family’s home. Megamind’s criminal caretakers teach him to embrace the darker side of life, and his genius grasp of science allows him to begin creating fiendish devices from an early age.
Their worlds collide in grade school and the rivalry is formed there. Metro Man is lauded and praised as a good kid, always doing the right thing. Meanwhile Megamind is treated as a pariah, and it’s in school that he begins to fully embrace his darker tendencies. Megamind asks the audience the question “What if a Super Villain won?” when Metro Man is bested in a confrontation with Megamind. Some of the funniest moments in this film come when Megamind and his fish-like friend Minion (David Cross) run amok within Metro City in celebration of their victory.
Tina Fey voices Roxanne, a local TV reporter who has had much experience with both Metro Man and Megamind. Her performance plays very well against Ferrell’s, which is nice because the bulk of the scenes are shared between the two. Maybe it was Fey’s experience working with Ferrell on SNL and her own comedic understanding as a writer and star on NBC’s 30 Rock that allowed her to both shine and play straight-woman to Ferrell’s oddball performance. Whatever the reason, the two strike a wonderful coupling together.
Dreamworks animated films have been somewhat hit or miss for me in the last few years. How To Train Your Dragon seemed to break the run of pretty mediocre films for the studio, who seemed content to just turn out Shrek sequels ad naseum. What I’ve always admired however, is that their animated films seemed to have a little more content aimed at the adults in the audience than a film by Pixar. Megamind succeeds brilliantly in this regard. In fact, the parody and satire may suffer from possibly going over the younger viewer’s heads because it’s so subtly clever in places.
One fairly large negative for me is in Jonah Hill’s performance as Tighten, the nerdy-cameraman-turned-Superhuman. Hill’s voicing doesn’t stretch him much; and he winds up playing a character very similar to most of the other characters he’s played in his career. While it works well in films like Superbad and Get Him to the Greek, in an animated kids film, it just kept me from really buying into Tighten. I saw Hill more than I saw a character unto himself. Perhaps this is more a criticism of a casting decision than it is a performance; but whatever the cause Hill comes up short against Fey, Pitt and Ferrell.
The 3-D is used tastefully, with just a couple of blatant gags meant to remind the audience they were indeed watching a movie in 3-D. In typical Dreamworks fashion, the soundtrack contains popular music, easily recognizable, and the song selection was spot on for this outing.
All in all, Megamind delivers on nearly every front. As an animated film aimed towards younger audiences and their parents, it offers quite a bit for both crowds. It is a movie that would likely get better on multiple viewings because of the layered gags and satirical bits that one might miss the first time around. When the film is as its best the laughs come fast and often, with some pretty spectacular action sequences to boot. Luckily for Ferrell and company, they seemed to be firing on all cylinders for the majority of the film, giving the audience a solid 90 minutes of fun.