By Jack Rico
I was invited by Dreamworks Studios this week to watch never before seen footage from 3 of their upcoming animated releases for 2010…
– 10 minutes of the superheroe spoof comedy ‘Megamind’ starring Brad Pitt and Tina Fey
– 30 minutes of ‘Shrek Forever After’ starring the old cast
– ‘How To Train My Dragon 3D’ with America Ferrera, Gerard Butler and Jay Baruchel.
All three looked very promising, but Shrek stood out the best in my opinion. The story was the more attractive piece and it maintained its great humor. It is going to be a HUGE hit!
Here’s a breakdown of what I saw followed by some commentary (spoilers!):
The directors and producers took the stage to present and wow us critics with footage from their respective films. Megamind was mostly unrendered and made me wonder of their willingness to even present it. Kudos. The scene they showed us began with our hero Metro Man, voiced by Brad Pitt, at the opening of his new museum. He plays with babies, flies around in circles and cracks jokes until his ceremony is preempted by his blue archenemy Megamind voiced by Will Ferrell, which the story revolves around. They exchange various gags and more jokes until our villain tells Metroman that he is holding hostage Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey), the reporter and love of our heroes’ life. He flies to save her and is duped by a ruse that ends his life via a potent laser blast from the sun.
Afterwards, the director Tom McGrath gets on stage again and tells us via colored story boards that Megamind eventually ends up unhappy in the Oval Office of the White House thinking Metroman is dead. We then are shown the poster of the film which we couldn’t take pictures of. Sorry.
The story was very funny, but not enough for me to hail it innovative and fresh. It’s all recycled. At least it looked entertaining and worth a watch. Megamind opens November 5th.
Shrek Forever After:
The exclusive 30 minute scene begins with the opening of the film as a narrator recaps what has happened with the last three Shrek films. He brings us to the present time where Fiona’s Mom and Dad were about to give away their kingdom to the titular villain – Rumpelstiltskin, a dwarf and loser of a man, desperate for attention and greed for all material goods – in exchange for the removal of the ogre spell on their daughter. He tries to get their signature on a contract but is thwarted when Shrek saves Fiona with his one true kiss. We fast forward and see Shrek with the whole family and friends crew going through their daily routine. But we see it repeated about 5 times in a row symbolizing how overwhelmed and frustrated he is with his life as a father and husband. The poop hits the fan when he screams at the top of his lungs in a kids party and walks out after an argument with Fiona who blames him for everything that’s going wrong.
He ends up meeting Rumpelstiltskin in the forest and convinces him to exchange one day of his life for being a feared and hated ogre once again. Shrek resistantly agrees and his life goes back to normal… but it isn’t normal. He notices that Rumpelstiltskin took away the day he was born, thus he never met Fiona nor does he have a family to love again. Shrek is captured by witches and is taken to Rumpelstiltskin’s new castle in Far Far Away land where he confronts him and escapes along with Donkey. Fade to black.
This was the actual half hour beginning of the film. It was very entertaining and very funny. I must’ve laughed liked 4 times before it ended. Puss in Boots needs to happen ASAP, he’s the best character of the franchise. Shrek forever After opens May 21st.
How To Train My Dragon 3D:
I won’t talk much about this one since it was shown in its entirety and will leave it as part of an official review week of release on March 26. But it was a fun film with great voice acting from Gerard Butler. The film is about the war between vikings and dragons. You can check out the trailer here (link). Overall the film has some touching moments at the end that might move some folks (it did me) and the 3D experience was standard and fun. Nothing ‘Avatar’ like.
My conversations with Jeffrey Katzenberg, Gerard Butler, Jay Baruchel
So Dreamworks takes us to a restaurant called A Voce at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan to frolic and eat with peers. While I’m there about to get a drink, Jeffrey Katzenberg is at the bar with me and I asked him about the decision of showing unfinished and unrendered movie footage so early. He replied “I don’t mind doing if it’s going to garner your attention and make the film a better buy for consumers. You know, I think there’s no reason why it should not be seen if you’re going to get excited. It’s just my thinking.” Kudos to him. This was a crux and still is for most film studios. He’s different and much respect to him for being open about it. The other film directors don’t necessarily agree with him, but do it anyway.
Several minutes later, a publicist approaches me and says if I would like to meet Gerard Butler and have a chat with him. It was interesting to see this dynamic since it is usually the press pursuing the actors and not vice versa. We had a great chat, he looked slim and not chubby like he did in The Ugly Truth. We spoke about his career, jokes about Phantom of the Opera, the way the movie ‘How To Train My Dragon’ captured his mannerisms and essence and how this is his first feature length voiceover for animation. He’s had previous stints with voice work on television, but not like this. Butler spoke about cringing early in his career at the site of seeing himself on film. He hated it. He has no problems now with it. After some jokes were said about inane things and we moved on to Jay Baruchel.
Jay Baruchel approaches me with a trucker hat, a heavy beard and a tattoo of his mother’s name on his right forearm. I ask him about it and he replies I’m going to get a few more on my body for her. He must really love his mother! We then segue into 4 films coming out this year with him as one of the lead roles: She’s Out of My League, How To Train My Dragon, The Trotsky and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. I asked how happy was he of being in the middle of a comeback. He answers disappointingly that it doesn’t mean anything, it’s all coincidence of the release dates. (as he was cursing up a storm). He continues saying that he’s been through this notion of the IT guys before and nothing has happened, “for example, when I was in ‘Million Dollar Baby,’ everybody said watch out for this guy, he’s gonna be someone. Then when I was in ‘Knocked Up,’ people said I was in a sleeper hit, gonna need to watch that kid. Then in ‘Tropic Thunder’ I was hailed as the one to watch…again! So I say, I don’t believe in being the IT guy nor am I interested.”
He then went on to say, and I believe this is an EXCLUSIVE, that he wants to quit acting altogether. “You know, I don’t wake up with that feeling of love for acting, for this business. I really just do it to pay my mom’s bills and take care of her.” With his beard in tow and the disappointed look, I had to ask if he was pulling a Joaquin Phoenix here. He laughed and scoffed at the notion. He says that it was embarrassing to see that and assured me it was nothing of the sort. We finally concluded with a new movie he’s currently filming called ‘Notre Dame de Grace’ which might be his last project.