Originality of vision is not always necessary to make a film, and the lack of it does not necessarily make a film bad. Even in 3-D, a movie can sometimes find it’s place in the middle ground between typical trash and art. Case in point: the newest Dreamworks Animation release, MEGAMIND, a collage of recycled material, prime voice casting, and fun, antic wit that brings absolutely nothing “newest” to the table.
Discharged from his dying home planet Clark Kent-style, blue-skinned extraterrestrial Megamind (voice by Will Ferrell) lands in a prison cell in Metro City and learns pretty quickly that villainy is his forte. He spends most of his huge-headed life being defeated by Metro Man (Brad Pitt), the narcissistic but nonetheless vigilant and all-powerful guardian of Metro City. Both villain and hero pay special attention to capturing/rescuing newscaster Roxanne Ritchie (Tina Fey), whose beauty and sass only further paralyze her faithful cameraman Hal (Jonah Hill, most likely cast not for his fitting voice, but body type). In the film’s most inspired conceit, however, Metro Man is finally defeated and presumed destroyed by a sun-powered Death Ray, leaving Megamind without a rival and with no one left to play cops and robbers. He decides, being the genius he is, that making a new superhero is the best idea to cure him of his boredom. Giving away anymore is both unnecessary and unfair, as the plot runs on fumes from there, much to the chagrin of anyone over the age of 10.
One may notice that the voice cast of this film is almost too good to believe, but it’s true, and impressive. Ferrell, whose last voice-over role was Man with the Yellow Hat in 2006’s CURIOUS GEORGE, proves once again why he is Hollywood’s go-to funnyman. His slight British inflection makes simple expressions embarrassingly funny – “Minion, I’m feeling so mel-onk-o-lee”, he says at one point. Fey’s Ritchie is a rare character for any film, strong and single and just as willing to dish out lines like “Let’s go gangsta”. Besides these two and Pitt (again spoofing his Hollywood persona a la BURN AFTER READING), the voice cast includes Ben Stiller, David Cross (as Megamind’s BFF puffer-fish-in-a-gorilla-suit, Minion), and J.K. Simmons (an obscure but apt, choice for a prison warden). These are highly sought-after and talented people, and through sheer skill and experience they elevate Megamind to a higher realm of comedy than many kids and adults will come to expect from the trailers.
No studio in a long time has made a film on the same creative or intellectual level as a Pixar Animation Studios; knowing this, Dreamworks is campaigning heavily for a Best Picture nomination in February for HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, and seems intent on adding quality films to their repertoire. In this sense, MEGAMIND represents. First, writers Alan J. Schoolchraft and Brent Simons borrow not only Superman allusions and jokes, but also essential plot details from such films as THE INCREDIBLES and DESPICABLE ME. Those films were each too good and too recent to forget, and the script would have benefited if equal attention were given to plot as the jokes (many of which had the 18+ audience members laughing while the kids waited for the loudest noise or brightest 3-dimensional explosion). Second, director Tom McGrath (stepping down a bit from MADAGASCAR, but not much) resorts to using that 3-D technology for pure exploitation, unlike great CGI films such as HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and TOY STORY 3.
Oh, and weird as it may be to say, Hans Zimmer’s score (with Lorne Balfe) is just intrusive. My expectations for Zimmer are perhaps too high, and the man is bound to win a million more trophies before year’s end (his INCEPTION score was tremendous), so this was a bit of a disappointment.
MEGAMIND (November 2010). Directed by: Tom McGrath. Written by: Alan J. Schoolcraft & Brent Simons. Music by: Hans Zimmer & Lorne Balfe. Voice Cast: Megamind – Will Ferrell; Roxanne Ritchie – Tina Fey; Metro Man – Brad Pitt; Minion – David Cross; Hal/Tighten – Jonah Hill; Warden – J.K. Simmons.