Pixar may have set the standard for heartfelt animated storytelling, but DreamWorks Animation is carving itself out a niche for consistent high-concept zaniness.
Megamind (Will Ferrell) is the villainous arch-nemesis of Metro Man (Brad Pitt), defender of Metro City. Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey) is the reporter always covering the action when she isn’t being repeatedly kidnapped and saved. Then the unthinkable happens: Metro Man is defeated, leaving Megamind and his trusty servant Minion (David Cross) with no one to challenge their criminal dominance. What’s a bad guy to do when he finally achieves everything he set out to do?
Unlike the Shreck sequels, DreamWorks Animation has managed to move away from the “let’s see how many pop culture references we can squeeze in” scripting and instead embraced the world their characters inhabits. Taking a cue from Pixar’s The Incredibles, the world of Megamind is chock full of genre references: secret bases, super weapons and gadgets, and elaborate traps. But the references end there as the twist is laid bare from the very beginning: with the position of “hero” already filled, Megamind embraces his “villain” role to be the best bad guy he can be.
DreamWorks Animation continues to impress as it carves out it’s own niche. Like the Warner Bros. “Looney Tunes” of old, high-concept zaniness has become their bread and butter while fusing it with just enough Pixar-inspired heart to set it above the rest of the wannabes. The story also pays attention to detail, recalling the rules they’ve established in the world they’ve created and working within them. During the requisite final showdown at the end of the film, the secrets to saving the day aren’t only surprising, they’re inspired.
Both Pixar and DreamWorks Animation have achieved grand specatacles on screeen worthy of an animated canvas. It would be easy to dismiss Megamind as a comedy ringer since the cast is rife with comics voicing the characters, but when you figure in the bits of hurt and anger that aren’t merely setup for another sight gag, it’s yet another sign the days of Pixar getting a free pass to an animation Oscar may be limited. With a Kung Fu Panda sequel in the pipeline scheduled for next summer, news of what’s planned next for Megamind can’t be far behind.
(a three skull recommendation out of four)