One of the grand things about the rise of animated films as a major source of revenue for studios has been that high ranking actors have managed to use them in different ways for their career.
Some like Michael Myers disappear into it after running into diminishing returns with the Austin Powers franchise. Shrek turned into a gold mine for him and the resulting franchise kept him busy in a studio, recording dialogue, for almost a decade. The Love Guru, his big return to live action comedy, was a disappointment and seemingly spurred him back to making films about the loveable green ogre. People will pay to hear his voice but not see his face, seemingly, as dictated by the stunning grosses of a Shrek sequel compared to Guru despite the quality level in both being comparable.
Others like Jack Black use them as leverage to continue their career in front of it. Black lent his voice to Kung Fu Panda and that film’s success seemingly overlooks flops such as the most recent adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels and Year One. Panda is a fallback of sorts for Black; a couple flops can be glossed over with another animated sequel in the same manner Sylvester Stallone used his Rocky and Rambo franchises to cover over films like Rhinestone and Over the Top. Wait for Kung Fu Panda 3: Enter the Fish sometime in 2013 if Black’s live action box office grosses don’t increase.
This leaves us with the curious case of Will Ferrell, an actor seemingly above the fray of doing voice work. Before he became a film star he was a regular on a handful of animated television shows, most notably King of the Hill, but since leaving Saturday Night Live for a rapidly rising ascent to comedic stardom his only voice role had been as The Man with the Yellow Hat in Curious George. This makes Megamind that more intriguing a film to view on a surface level, at least. If Ferrell and Brad Pitt are willing to lend their voices the film must either have some sort of brilliant concept or the paychecks offered were obscenely high in comparison to the level of work involved. Either way it becomes interesting to ponder, though audiences didn’t come out in droves for this film which managed to gross over $140 million domestically.
Megamind (Ferrell) and Metro Man (Pitt) are the typical super villain & super hero. The former is a mechanical and electronic genius, designed all sorts of gadgets. The latter is a thinly veiled look at Superman, a nigh invincible powerhouse who foils all of his schemes. Constantly breaking out of prison and scheming to kill his rival, usually kidnapping local reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey) in the process, Megamind is always defeated after coming remarkably close. And then something curious happens: Megamind finally defeats him. He’s left with a dilemma afterward: What does he do now? Part of being a villain requires having someone to battle for supremacy and finally winning leaves him without a purpose in life, leaving him to look inward and find that perhaps there’s a hero inside him after all waiting to come out.
Following Megamind through this comic ordeal, there’s something clever about the way this film works the superhero origin myth. Clearly riffing on the origin of Superman, making Megamind and Metro Man rivals since their infant spaceships clashed as they escape a dying galaxy for Earth, Megamind does so much that’s clever in tackling its plot that it’s remarkable in a way. Considering this is the age of the superhero Dreamworks has taken an unlikely approach and has crafted a tale making fun of the origin myth nature of the comic book action hero. It’s a farce, of course, but that’s half the fun.
Megamind is a man who is more of a product of his circumstance than a true villain. He’s raised in a prison by inmates after crash-landing there while his nemesis crash lands in a wealthy house (after blocking Megamind’s ship), it has a poignancy to it that develops during Megamind’s criminal phase of the film. He develops this long standing hatred and rivalry from there with Metro Man as a reaction to the way he’s treated as opposed to being evil from the beginning like a lot of villains. If he’d been a hero from the start you get the feeling he’d be just as incompetent, if immensely intelligent, but there’s a sort of emptiness in his schemes outside of their comic value. They are not formulated in a malicious way, feeling more like cheeky shenanigans, and that makes him a fascinating character. He’s inept as a villain because there’s something inherently decent about him waiting to come about. You can see it in the way he acts and in his convoluted schemes. He’s not a Bond villain, inherently evil and inept at the same time, but rather a more misguided moron. And mainly it’s because Ferrell does a terrific job as his voice.
Ferrell may have made a handful of awful films over the past couple years but Megamind is a character he can really sink his teeth into. Free from having to play his usual overgrown man-child, there’s a relish in his voice from being able to be freed from his usual stock character. This is the same type of film that Stranger than Fiction showcased his talents, allowing him to play off the absurdity of events without having to indulge in them. In this case he’s the driver behind it all (as opposed to the passenger) and doesn’t have to resort to channeling humor physically or using profanity to get a laugh. From simple things like mispronouncing words like school or Metro City, to the way he melts down during an escapade, Ferrell does more than just collect a paycheck. He gives Megamind a sense of purpose and gives us a reason to care. He’s passionate about many things and does a terrific job with the character in the same way Tom Hanks did with Woody in the Toy Story franchise. This isn’t just a celebrity lending their voice, it’s a first rate actor developing and molding a character.
It may have been overshadowed by Toy Story 3 in box office revenues, and Despicable Me in hype, but Megamind was just as good as those two films.
Blu-ray seems to be hit or miss with many films but with animation it always looks so much better than the regular DVD. Presented in a widescreen format and a Dolby Digital surround for both the Blu-Ray and regular DVD, the Blu-Ray is extraordinarily better than the regular DVD. There are some films made for the format and this is one of them.
Megamind: The Button of Doom is a 15 minute short that feels like an entire sequence cut from the film as opposed to new material. In it Megamind has a yard sale, getting rid of all his old evil gadgets, but manages to activate a giant robot in his own likeliness that he has to destroy.
There’s a Deleted Scene on both the Blu-Ray and regular DVD that was excised for good reason. Meet the Cast is a quick EPK piece about the film that doesn’t add much back into the film, as does Inside Megamind’s Lair which is more of a piece about how they made Megamind into a more softer villain. Animator Man is a quick piece about how the animators had to act out parts of the film to make the film look how it did in terms of character movement, et al. You can draw Megamind is a quick tutorial on how to draw Megamind, Mega Rap is a music video inspired by the film. The Reign of Megamind is a video comic book of the film, Spot the Difference is a game where you look at two pictures and tell which is different. There’s a Commentary Track and a Trivia Track, as well as one for the animation and a Photo Gallery.
Most animated films are aimed towards children and are written accordingly. As an adult it gets harder to find animated fare that isn’t pandering to children significantly. Every now and again you get rewarded and Megamind is it.
Dreamworks presents Megamind . Directed by Tom McGrath. Starring Brad Pitt, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill. Written by David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori. Running time: 96 minutes. Rated PG. Released on Blu-ray and DVD: February 25, 2011.
Tags: brad pitt, dreamworks, Jonah Hill, Megamind, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell