After years of hand drawn Disney classics, and some lame knock-offs by other studios, Hollywood finally entered the digital age when Pixar released Toy Story in 1995, and they’ve been making it hand over fist ever since. While there’s still lame knock-offs, Pixar no longer has a lock on the digital animation market, with the release of a couple stinkers themselves (Cars), and DreamWorks has made a push backed by 4 Shrek movies, to nip at the title. It’s that studio that has the most buzzed about animated flick opening this fall, and after a strong debut at ComicCon, the Will Farrell voiced Megamind trailer is hitting theaters and TV, as the latest attempt to prove that Pixar isn’t the only game in town.
A nice long trailer that gives us a movie that turns the superhero drama on its head – what happens when the bad guy wins? Will Farrell is the voice of Megamind, an evil genius with the prerequisite neurosis, Tina Fey is Roxanne Ritchie, the reporter/Lois Lane archetype, and Brad Pitt is the voice of Metro Man, the toothy-grinned Superman of the fictional Metro City. But, not your average superhero cartoon, as we see that fairly early on in the movie, Metro Man meets his ultimate fate at the hands of Megamind, and the bad guy finally, once and for all, gets the run of the city. But, unlike Superman II, this superhero doesn’t just lose his powers or disappear – Metro Man’s bone-white skeleton comes crashing to the ground, and it’s clear, he’s not coming back. As Megamind begins to live out an old joke – he soon gets bored with his long sought-after prize – he appears to create a new superhero out of Roxanne Ritchie’s overweight and desperate cameraman, voiced by Jonah Hill. Battle scenes ensue between the two new enemies, and we can only guess that the newly created superhero begins to live out his nerd fantasy a bit too much, and Megamind has to come to the rescue to save the day.
The first thing that comes to mind when watching the trailer is how similar it looks and feels to Pixar’s The Incredibles. Now that’s not fair to say, just because they’re both digitally animated superhero movies taken askew, located in clean metropolitan cities, with giant robot henchmen and flame haired antagonists that take out their unrequited hopes and dreams on the innocent citizens below, doesn’t mean it’s the same movie. See, this one has Will Farrell and Tina Fey. And that might be the thing that saves it. I hate to say, but it’s impossible to go into a DreamWorks animated movie and not be a little skeptical. With Pixar, we know their track record, and even if the idea is dumb (how are kids supposed to relate to anthropomorphic automobiles? – they don’t even have any arms!), or the voice actors aren’t carrying the film with their charm (essentially, Wall-E doesn’t have spoken dialogue until forty minutes into the film), you can always count on a good movie coming from the studio, normally a really good movie. Aside from Shrek, and possibly Madagascar, DreamWorks hasn’t really garnered a reliable reputation in the animation field, and has yet to produce a truly great feature. So why make a suspiciously similar knock-off of arguably one of the greatest animated movies of all time? A really good question, but like I said, you put Tina Fey and Will Farrell together, and I’d probably watch anything.
The jokes in the trailer are kind of funny, and it hits a peak in the banter between Farrell and his fish sidekick voiced by David Cross. And the sight gags with the Obama-esque “No You Can’t” posters, and the homage to Marlon Brando’s “Jor-El” are pretty good too. But it’s the unoriginality that keeps popping up here. Aside from the entire plot line, the scene where Megamind struts down the street to AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” is just groan-worthy, and possibly the greatest sin of all – casting Brad Pitt as the voice of Metro Man. Now, I can admit that Brad Pitt has gotten considerably better as an actor since he made me want to claw my eyes out in Legends of the Fall, and I dare say he was pitch perfect as Tyler Durden and that gypsy from Snatch, but I will never say that Brad Pitt is a great actor. Nor will I say that the man hasn’t gotten through acting gigs coasting on his looks alone. Casting Brad Pitt as a voice actor is like hiring Erin Andrews to do radio – it’s just not playing up your strengths. And I for one don’t care for Pitt’s voice or overly-cocky delivery here. I can see them wanting to make Metro Man a less that stand-up guy, but they would’ve done better in getting Pitt’s friend George Clooney, a man whose voice fits the superhero mold.
So, will it suck?
No. Of course, the plot is derivative, and some of the jokes are kinda lame, but it’s got Will Farrell and Tina Fey! Oh, and David Cross – how could I forget?! – a knockout combo of three of the funniest people working today. Any movie that has these three is going to be entertaining on some level, so if only we can block out Brad Pitt’s voice for the first half of the movie, and Jonah Hill’s in the second, we’ll probably be in pretty good shape. However, I get the feeling we should have The Incredibles queued up at home for afterwards, to see how a real movie does it.