Ever wonder how Wile E. Coyote would feel if he ever caught the Road Runner?
(Actually, Seth MacFarlane did more than wonder; in his Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy show, with the bird long digested, Wile E. turns to Jesus to fill the void in his heart.)
The inept arch-villain Megamind has the same problem; now that he’s finally offed his nemesis, the smug ‘n smarmy superhero Metro Man… what’s left to do? Terrorizing Metro City and kidnapping feisty reporter Roxanne “Roxie” Ritchi doesn’t have the same zing without someone to oppose him. There’s only one option left – and it ain’t looking for Jesus…
The blue-domed bad guy’s plan to liven up his life again involves creating a new nemesis for himself – but like most of his other plans, things don’t work out the way he intended: when his would-be hero (Jonah Hill as fanboy turned ubermensch Titan) turns evil – and I mean knocking over skyscrapers evil – Megamind’s forced to play the good guy in spite of himself.
That’s the set-up in Megamind, DreamWorks’ third turn at bat this year (following How to Train Your Dragon and Shrek Forever After). The fact that Will Ferrell’s inept bad guy is the film’s eponymous protagonist rather than Brad Pitt’s quickly dispatched Metro Man lets you know right off the bat that Megamind is more than a superhero spoof; it’s a superhero fairy tale about the redemption of a lost soul.
Those who think superstar actors wind up as the leads in animated features strictly for their box-office pull should give the topic a second thought or three; as versatile as they are, it’s unlikely that veteran voice actors could deliver as subtle and modulated a performance as Ferrell’s. It’s easy to sound wackily frantic when one’s grand schemes are falling apart… but a lot harder to hit that bulls-eye of honest pathos and vulnerability when Megamind realizes he’s blown his shot at romancing Roxie.
Brad Pitt and Tina Fey (doing her first animation voice work) deliver the goods as well. Pitt has the easiest job offering Metro Man’s noble sentiments, but later shows his own human side when he admits he’s reached the been-there, done-that point of superheroing. In the Lois Lane role (you didn’t think those double initials were a coincidence, did you), Fey starts out with her sassy SNL/30 Rock personality, but like her co-stars eventually reveals a more rounded character. (Then again, it would be hard for characters in a CGI/3D feature not to be rounded…)
Megamind tips its hat to a few other movies, most notably in Titan and Roxi’s ‘can you read my mind’ gone-horribly-wrong flight, or the Robot Monster style gorilla-wearing-a-diving helmet (http://themoderatevoice.com/wordpress-engine/files/2007-november/robot_m...) look sported by Mega’s sidekick Minion (David Cross, a cartoon voice veteran compared to his co-stars). There’s also a few interesting animation echoes too, beginning with the film’s first shot: Megamind narrating his predicament from later in the film (a la The Emperor’s New Groove). Megamind and Metro Man’s Superman-style origin (rival infant survivors of an exploding planet rocketing their separate ways to Earth) echoes an episode of the Disney Afternoon TV series Darkwing Duck (and both feature a father figure doing a marble-mouthed Marlon Brando impression). Then there’s Despicable Me, this year’s other ‘villain redeems himself’ movie. However, there’s a big difference between the two: at film’s end Megamind has made the journey from villain to hero, while Despicable’s Gru defeats a challenger to the title of the world’s best bad guy; you still have a way to go, Gru.