By: Addison Wylie
Despicable Me left a bad taste in my mouth. There was nothing more disappointing than being subjected to an animated film that missed every mark even though it had a very interesting, original plot. Megamind, the latest animated movie to dabble in the supervillian-with-a-heart territory, has cheered me up. What Despicable Me failed to do, DreamWorks Animation picked up the fumble and has presented us a a fun and lively time at the theatre. The material is handled well, the jokes never feel stale, and even though the vocal cast seems celebrity studded for the sake of packing A-List celebrities in a children’s movie, the voice acting is very strong. It may seem like I’m comparing the two films but even if Despicable Me didn’t come out this year, Megamind would still stand as an entertaining and exciting animated movie.
Megamind, voiced by Will Ferrell, and Metro Man, voiced by Brad Pitt, have always had a brutal rivalry with each other. Where Megamind tries to crush Metro Man with his evil-doing ways, good always seems to prevail. Determined to defeat Metro Man once and for all, Megamind devises a plan with his partner, Minion, voiced by David Cross, that will no doubly reign chaos onto Metro Man and Metro City. Everyone is surprised, however, when Megamind’s plans carry out and claim evil as the victor. Now, bored with the outcome of not having a super hero to duel, Megamind decides to create a new superhero. A superhero that everyone will be able to root for and be interested in observing the fights between good and evil. It’s just too bad Megamind’s subject, after a series of accidents, ends up being a local lazy and anxious cameraman named Hal, voiced by Jonah Hill.
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It’s relieving to see this material grasped appropriately with smart comedic timing and interesting storytelling methods. Screenwriters Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons both have a great sense of humour but are also able to develop their characters with ease. Megamind could’ve been a flat characachure if handled incorrectly but by establishing the evil genius’ past at the beginning of the film and setting up his motivations during these opening sequences, these attributes stick throughout the film and the character is believable even though he’s an animated creature. Schoolcraft and Simons recognize each character and treat them as if they were real life adaptations and its’ greatly effective. The two writers also know how to satirize previous work. With their jabs at action movie one-liners and witty exchanges between a hero and a villain, the two writers have their tongues firmly in cheek. It’s not only funny but it’s a case of smart writing as well.
Director Tom McGrath handles the source material professionally and is able to bring his unique vision to the big screen. With the help of his similar sense of humour and his team of animators, McGrath is able to keep the developed characters faithful in a surreal, sparkling universe. McGrath also knows how to keep the reigns on his movie without it getting too silly. For instance, the soundtrack features hit songs by artists like Guns & Roses and Ozzy Osbourne. DreamWorks Animation has a tendency of doing this in their features and it sometimes gets to a point where the songs begin to get distracting. However, McGrath keeps the song cues short and is able to develop a mood with his choice of tracks.
Not only is the direction and the writing in top notch quality, but the voice cast is very effective and stimulating; notably Ferrell and Tina Fey’s contribution. Ferrell is able to disguise his voice fairly well and become Megamind. He’s never over-the-top or overzealous and the audience never feels like we’re listening to Will Ferrell be silly for 96 minutes. His ability to keep his composure is impressive. Tina Fey voices Roxanne Ritchi, a local news reporter all the guys seem to be head over heels for. From the get-go, Fey’s voice is unrecognizable. Even if you try to listen for vocal characteristics that Fey has, the task is impossible. Fey wraps herself up in the character and is disguised throughout the film. In the same way Ferrell does, Fey manages to have fun with the role but keeps things professionally as well. We never feel like Fey is “phoning it in”.
The one player that didn’t quite convince me was Hill’s portrayal of Hal. No matter how hard I tried to disassociate Hill’s vocal mannerisms from his character, his voice is too distinctive. This is the second time I’ve heard Jonah Hill lend his voice to an animated movie and the fact is Hill can’t effectively hide his voice. Where some actors may rehearse lines and experiment with different readings, it feels as if Hill walked into the recording booth, unprepared, and just started reading off the script. Jonah Hill can be very charismatic and can sometimes steal scenes in live action features; he just needs a little more work in the voice acting realm.
Megamind surprised me. Not just in the sense that it was able to reboot similar characters and similar themes that I thought might be stale, but I was surprised with how much the story and the jokes were able to pull me in. Add excellent voice work and a distinctive look that makes the film stand out visually and you have a high quality film in both it’s preparation and presentation.