Superhero films have donned the multiplexes since the 1940s so it must be hard trying to come up with something new by now. And yes, the spoofing of said superhero films has been done and will continue ad nauseam. But with every character being thrown at us from Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Watchmen, X-Men; it’s the original characters along the way that really have the ability to stand out. M. Night Shyamalan may have given us the fantastic Unbreakable but it was Brad Bird who broke the mold when he delivered us The Incredibles (arguably one of the greatest superhero films of all time).
Now DreamWorks Animation is jumping on the bandwagon to bring us its slice of the pie, with Will Ferrell in voice command as the giant blue-headed Megamind. Director Tom McGrath (both Madagascar films) and his team of sophomore writers, Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons, deliver us something more unexpected than the trailers and film spots will lead you to believe. While some of it borrows heavily from the best while giving nods to the rest, they still manage to bring something different and largely hilarious to theaters this weekend.
Megamind has just arrived on Earth along with the goody little two-shoes Metro Man (voiced by Brad Pitt). While Metro Man was delivered under the Christmas tree to a wealthy family, Megamind winds up crash landing in Metro City Prison. Raised by his fellow inmates with the belief that evil is good, it’s not until his time off for good behavior that he meets up with Metro Man in school and their rivalry is born.
Megamind just wants to continue the bouts between him and Metro Man always trying, but never winning, to take over control of Metro City (or Metrocity as Megamind always mispronounces). He finally hatches a scheme, assisted by his ever trusting Minion (voiced by David Cross), involving kidnapping local TV reporter Roxanne Ritchi (voiced by Tina Fey) to lure in Metro Man and destroy him once and for all. When his plan seems to finally work he finds himself a man without a song.
Megamind now finds himself ruling Metro City and running rampant through the streets stealing himself everything from the Mona Lisa to the Ark of the Covenant but eventually he finds himself bored having existential conversations with inanimate objects. After he takes the form of local nerd museum worker Bernard (voiced by Justin Theroux), he finds himself convinced of a new plan to make his own superhero foe and accidentally finds it in the form of Roxanne’s unrequited love slave Hal (voiced by Jonah Hill).
In the form of Hal’s “Space Dad” (aka Marlon Brando from the original Richard Donner Superman film), Megamind trains the newly trademarked “Tighten” to save the city from Megamind’s nefarious plans and rescue Roxanne so she can fall in love with him. Little does Tighten know that Megamind himself is falling in love with Roxanne until he spies them having a smooch off at dinner. Now Tighten decides he doesn’t want to be the good guy and a new super villain is born and it’s up to Megamind himself to save Metrocity, err, Metro City, and Roxanne, from impending doom.
Director McGrath keeps things sailing along merrily and hilariously with further nods to everything from the classic Donkey Kong arcade game to even a blink and you’ll miss it reference to Ferrell’s own Anchorman. The voice cast is more than up for the ensuing hijinks with Ferrell finally finding a character worthy of his over-the-top antics Fey using her spry sarcasm in overdrive.
At first Hill seems a little bored with his character but that’s because Hal is far less interesting character than Tighten turns out to be, it’s when he’s finally transformed that Hill gets to let loose and bring on the funny. And speaking of which, why no one has thought to use Brad Pitt to voice a superhero before is beyond me. He’s not only spot on as a man of steel with an enormous ego but he’s just as hilarious here as he can be in a good live-action comedic role of which he’s been far too limited.
So while you may think the well is beginning to run a little dry either in the case of superhero films or especially in the world of spoof, thankfully we find there’s still something left. Some credit probably needs to be given to Ben Stiller as an executive producer or even the surprising inclusion of Guillermo del Toro brought on for some additional editing, these names aren’t so surprising given Stiller typically knows funny and Del Toro certainly knows a thing or two about superheroes (Blade II and the Hellboys). So movie going is finally saved with a double helping of hilarity no matter what your cup of tea. Ultimately, however, this is the far greater film arriving in theaters this weekend.
Photo courtesy DreamWorks Animation