If you’re looking to spend a couple hours sitting back and having a good time, then get yourself to the theatre this weekend and go see Megamind, DreamWorks’ latest animated feature. When I got to the press screening last Saturday, I was actually in a good mood for a change. It was my birthday, I’d eaten an In-N-Out double-double for lunch and for a few brief hours, I was mostly pleasant to be with. I put on my 3-D glasses in search of some good old fashioned entertainment and I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed. The film looked great, the story resonated with me and kept my attention, the running gags were used wisely, not beaten to death, the 3-D done seamlessly and expertly without obvious gimmicks or flaws.
Most of all, and most surprising to me, Will Ferrell’s performance was exceptional. This really is Ferrell’s movie. Director Tom McGrath got Ferrell’s A-game - Megamind is a swirling mixture of over-the-top bravado and whimsical denseness, carefully built with many layers of thoughtful subtlety that ultimately made a truly absurd character into someone I was always interested in watching. Ferrell is a unique talent and like all such talents, can overstay his welcome on screen. Not the case here.
Megamind’s redemptive path from evil villain to not-so-evil hero is certainly nothing new, nor is the typical shunned outcast path he took while growing up (though most outcasts I remember as a child didn’t have a giant blue head, they just had bad allergies and didn’t tell the teacher when you stole Oreos from their lunch box). You know what’s coming next pretty early on, but it’s of no matter. Megamind’s journey reminds us all that the obvious is not always that obvious, that while it’s still most often appropriate to root for “good over evil” it’s not always that cut and dried.
In fact, two of the film’s central characters, Metro Man and Hal/Titan, both take morally and ethically dubious paths and neither are quite as good or quite as bad as they might appear at first glance. Our smarmy hero Metro Man (voiced with requisite conceit by Brad Pitt), worshiped to the point of deity status by the city he serves, decides he’s had enough and disappears with a faked death, content to sit out the mayhem that ensues when Megamind takes over the city. Likewise, likeable and funny love-struck dweeb Hal, (ably voiced by Jonah Hill), the husky (of course all second fiddles who can’t get the girl are portrayed with some type of “obvious” physical flaw) cameraman, follows ace reporter Roxanne Ritchie (a solid if not under played Tina Fey) around like a 5th grader nursing his first teacher crush. Hal is transformed by Megamind into faux super hero Titan, only to embrace the dark side as his rage intensifies with each passing moment Roxanne spurns him. Suddenly, the super hero Megamind created to fill the void left by Metro Man’s absence turns on him and the entire city, with a violence and vengeance far worse than anything Megamind, the proclaimed “Evil Genius,” has ever perpetrated. Megamind is left with only one option, to take the role of good guy and save the day.
Without going into much more plot detail, suffice to say the film looks fantastic, the pace and action never drown out the narrative nor seem out of place. The characters, not crazy antics, carry the day and propel the story forward throughout. I put my 3-D glasses on and didn’t remember I was wearing them until the final credits, a tribute to the talent and effort put into the stereoscopic production. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention David Cross’ Minion, Megamind’s trusted fish-servant robot (props to Forbidden Planet’s Robby the Robot). Cross is a favorite of mine and his work here is excellent. Every time I hear his voice, I picture his Tobias Fünke, painted completely blue, trying desperately to audition for the Blue Man Group (props to Arrested Development). One of the classic characters in TV history.
Megamind is further proof that DreamWorks has mostly abandoned the pop culture-laden shtick that worked often enough in the Shrek franchise and embraced more sophisticated and nuanced story telling. Following on the footsteps of the spectacular How To Train Your Dragon, Megamind reminds us just how much fun you can have watching a really well made animated film.