I don’t especially care for Will Ferrell’s humor. In fact, I go out of my way to tell people that I spell my last name differently than he does (Farrell/Ferrell). I’m not entirely sure why I dislike his acting and comedy so much; I just don’t. I was underwhelmed by his performance in Stranger Than Fiction, though I respected the attempt at a more serious role (of course, he hasn’t done anything even remotely similar since), but, on the whole, I tend to avoid his comedy/acting. . . the man entirely.
That being said, I honestly never thought that I would see a movie in which I empathize and sincerely care about a character voiced by him.
When I first saw the trailer for Megamind, I was immediately interested, before I knew who was providing the voice for the title character. Upon finding out, I was taken aback, since the movie seemed different from his usual faire; not so much his traditional humor, though the repeated lines about “unbelievably handsome” seemed a little rich and midly annoying within a 1 minute teaser trailer. Still, I was optimistic about the casting choice (encouraged by Tina Fey’s involvement) and looked forward to seeing the movie. The concept was interesting, the characters amusing and fun.
Now, though it took me two viewings, I’ve come to the conclusion that I do, genuinely, like the film, in spite of Ferrell and in spite of the film’s many and distinctive flaws.
As far as positives go, the film was surprisingly sweet and adorable. There were several remarkable moments that stood out, pure gems – much like ones in How to Train Your Dragon. They came off the screen and touched you, emotionally…even in plain, ol’ 2D. I didn’t expect that from a kids’ comedy that’s supposedly poking fun at superheroes and comic book canon. I wasn’t at all prepared for a romantic sub-plot or an underlying theme about the desire for acceptance and companionship, about fitting in and just trying to belong. In one specific scene in the beginning, there’s a brief moment where we see a photograph of Megamind’s class, where he and his Minion are standing entirely separate from the rest of the group, off to the side. In spite of that isolation, both of them wear smiles. In that one instant, you completely sympathize. It took me right back to my early school days and how very tough a time it could be. And I certianly didn’t have a giant blue head, cause accidental disasters, or live in a prison.
On a more cheerful note, I enjoyed tremendously the motifs the film played with; not just the superhero-stuff, but the clash of musical styles. I loved that Metro Man is, essentially, Elvis (even down to the joke that he’s still alive somewhere), and that Megamind is sort of a personification of classic rock, complete with the black leather and silver spikes. They are both extremely theatrical, but in entirely different ways. But the superher0 references and puns are, without a doubt, a great deal of fun and wholeheartedly amusing.
It has to be said, too, that a sure-fire way to impress me is for a film that’s released in 3-D to be completely enjoyable in 2-D. Megamind did. There are some scenes here and there where it’s clear the filmmakers played around with the device, sure, but it managed to still be subtle about it. A million brownie points earned. That’s two films in a row – keep it up, Dreamworks.
On the other hand, the film is NOT without it’s problems. While the heart of the movie lies in the characters, specifically Megamind’s inner yearning to belong and be normal, the film more bluntly pushes the idea of “destiny” and “what makes you who you are.” It comes across as conflicting, almost confusing, as though you have to switch back and forth between two themes. The ideal situation would be that they compliment each other and that one, ultimately, stands over the other, but they honestly seem to be side-by-side and it’s frustrating; it made the film seem disjointed in places, rather than cohesive. I think a bit more time in story development would have done the film a lot of good. Not to mention some re-writes on the often cliché dialogue.
It comes back to a fundamental difference between Dreamworks and Pixar. People often tell me that they can’t keep the two studios’ work straight, as far as which released which films. To me, it’s ridiculously blatant. While both studios are brilliant when it comes to the quality of the animation itself, Dreamworks tends to rely more on humor, gags and antics, whereas Pixar’s films dig deeper and really flesh out their themes, characters and emotional core. How to Train Your Dragon was the first time I saw Dreamworks really compare to the likes of Toy Story, Monsters’ Inc., or Up. I’m not sure that Megamind did. It had all the potential in the world – it had all the right pieces, but they didn’t fit together properly – not the way they could have, anyway – and it shows. It’s like. . . “the little movie that could’ve.”
In the end, though, apart from a slightly weak ending, the film was fun, enjoyable and surprisingly sweet and endearing. Will Ferrell somehow managed to not be obnoxious to those of us who usually can’t stand him, and I’m sure his fans will be quite pleased with his performance. As I said after I saw him in Stranger Than Fiction I respected the gamble and had hoped to see him take on similar roles in the future (though steer clear of things like my beloved Bewitched). It would seem that this go-round was much better than anything thus far, at least in my humble opinion. Here’s hoping he continues in this direction.
I recommend this movie, but as long as you go in with an open mind.