(by Dustin Putman
Pleasant but minor, the computer-animated "Megamind" crosses 2004's "The Incredibles" with 2010's "Despicable Me" for a superhero farce that strikes one as awfully familiar. Director Tom McGrath (2008's "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa") and screenwriters Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons aren't reinventing the wheel here, and the overall heart and dramatic undercurrents of Pixar's oeuvre elude them, but their inspired voice talent and frequent witticism help to keep things from feeling too stale. What is tedious—at least in its theatrical presentation—is the picture's wretched, inconsequential use of 3-D, which brings nothing positive to the film and a whole lot negative, including overinflated premium ticket prices and would-be bright and colorful visuals that now just look dull and murky. "Megamind" may be worth seeing, but interested viewers would do well to either find a theater showing it in two dimensions or just wait for the inevitably superior Blu-Ray release. Article continues below
As a toddler, Megamind (voiced by Will Ferrell) narrowly escaped his planet's destruction and ended up landing on Earth—more specifically, within the gates of a maximum security prison, where he was raised by inmates. The more attractive and well-behaved Metro Man (Brad Pitt), meanwhile, ended up with a loving suburban family to take care of him and eventually became Metro City's superhero du jour. Every good guy needs an adversary, and Megamind happily takes on the part of supervillain, constantly kidnapping spunky news reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey) and sparring with Metro Man. When his dastardly plans are achieved for the very first time and Metro Man is killed, Megamind promptly takes over the city and becomes its fascist leader. Without someone to fight, though, Megamind loses all the meaning in his life and even grows guilty over what he's done. He desperately needs a new hero to be his latest arch-nemesis, but when his plans to transform Roxanne's bumbling camera operator Hal (Jonah Hill) into Metro Man's successor don't turn out as planned—Hal, now nicknamed Tighten, becomes a megalomaniac rather than the city's savior—Megamind suddenly finds himself on the side of the virtuous. Now, it's up to Megamind to save the day and make a new name for himself.
"Megamind" is good-humored, earning laughs from vibrant vocal readings and rare pop culture references that are actually smart rather than throwaways (in an aping of President Barack Obama's electoral campaign, Megamind's political posters read, "No You Can't!"). The aesthetics, save for the 3-D, are lovely. Metro City is a feast of animated details, a fictional setting that brings together different elements of New York City, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles for an altogether fresh locale. Action, of which there's plenty, is well rendered in between the core relationship that evolves between Megamind (in the physical guise of museum curator Bernard) and Roxanne. Megamind's sidekick named Minion—say, didn't the villain in "Despicable Me" have a whole slew of minions?—comes in the form of a human body with a piranha head in a helmet of water and is suitably cute in an oddball sort of way.
Will Ferrell (2010's "The Other Guys") and Tina Fey (2010's "Date Night") are terrific voicing Megamind and Roxanne, the roles seemingly tailor-made for them. There are times when one can actually catch glimpses of the actors within the looks, animated body language, and dialogue of their characters. Megamind may be playing a villain, but he's more amusing than hateful and his redemptive turnaround is one that can easily be bought into. The suggestion of a romance between Megamind and Roxanne is a little stranger, director Tom McGrath feigning ignorance in his portrayal of interspecies dating. Roxanne also could have afforded to be a little softer as a heroine, sort of like Anna Faris' lovable reporter from 2009's wonderful "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs;" for a woman who claims that you "shouldn't judge a person from what's on the outside," she comes off as hypocritical in the way she's always shrugging off nerdy Hal's initially harmless, sincere advances.
Laced with a part-fun, part-obvious soundtrack featuring the likes of Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, ELO and Michael Jackson, "Megamind" seems a little stuck in decades' past. Then again, so does the movie itself, with a story that one can easily envision as coming from 1989 (there are definite echoes of "Ghostbusters II" in its finale). This is more an observation than a criticism, though; at least the smarminess often found in a lot of today's non-Pixar animated features isn't on hand here. Also, with pacing that is lightning-fast, there is never a lull in the narrative—even if, that is, you aren't really left with much to think or care about once the 96-minute running time is over. "Megamind" is far from a new family classic, but it's solid enough that kids and adults will be able to enjoy it on their own terms.