If “The Incredibles” was a sly homage to the Fantastic Four and Marvel melodrama, “Megamind” is a high-flying farce that looks to roast a certain superhero that possesses both heat vision and a Metropolis ZIP code.
From the rocket-ship infancy to the reporter girlfriend, “Megamind” is all about Superman and the iconic perch he keeps in the public imagination after all these decades. The writing team behind the film, Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons, didn’t just go after the obvious stuff either — that mountaintop observatory that is one of the film’s key locations, for instance, was a nod to some signature moments in the classic Fleischer cartoons that still stand as one of the most satisfying interpretations of Superman in any medium. “It’s true that’s where he got that from and there was so much other stuff,” Simons said. “Having his girlfriend be named Roxanne Ritchi was part of that tradition where the female lead had a first and last name that started with the same letter, like Lois Lane or Vicki Vale [in Batman comics] or Lana Lang.”
Maybe the funniest part of the film is the inspired Space Daddy character — a nod to Superman’s long-gone father, Jor-El, who in some parts of the vast Superman mythology has appeared as a shimmering, postmortem hologram of sorts to impart sage wisdom and ethics lessons to his mighty offspring. In “Megamind,” the cosmic patriarch is really a supervillain in disguise but the belly-laugh comes from star Will Ferrell’s voice performance, which is a kooky riff on Marlon Brando, who of course played silver-maned Jor-El in the 1978 Richard Donner film.
Ferrell chuckled when asked about the vertically challenged Space Daddy, who has a towering, shiny pompadour and, in a 1970s reference mash-up, seems to frequently veer into Brando’s “an offer he can’t refuse” voice from “The Godfather.”
“Yeah, he was Don Corleone but also with some Garry Marshall mixed in,” Ferrell said, referring to the enduring Hollywood figure who is best known as a film director (“Pretty Woman,” “Beaches“) and creative force in television (“Happy Days,” “Mork and Mindy“) but who has also acted frequently through the years whether it’s “Murphy Brown” or “A League of Their Own” or his voice work in “Chicken Little” and “Pinky and the Brain.”
Ferrell said “Megamind” director Tom McGrath told him that Space Daddy was going to be based on Superman’s father, but the Brando aspect was not in the script in any way. “Tom said that this guy was going to be drawn as this homage to Jor-El and as a joke, as we were going to record it, he just asked me to do my best Brando — and my best Brando is not that great but we went and had some fun with it,” Ferrell said. “We showed it to everyone and they said, ‘Keep that, do it that way,’ and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. People say, ‘You do Brando in this?’ ‘Yes, I do, isn’t that weird?’ And when we did it I thought it would be too weird, you know, just too bizarre with the reference but they said go ahead and think outside the box on that one.”
If Mega-Man (Brad Pitt) is clearly a Superman figure and Metro City is a stand-in for Metropolis, that means Ferrell’s Megamind is a loopy hybrid of evil genius Lex Luthor and the colorful alien villain Braniac. Has Ferrell found himself leaning toward the dark side in real life after so much mind-melding with the supervillain set? “Yes, absolutely, I have been more evil. Noticeably, too. Not evil to individuals though, more to society. I’m not paying for parking meters anymore, for instance, I just stopped. I’m taking it out on the city. I’m taking it out on the man.”
— Geoff Boucher
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