A few months ago we were introduced to the film Despicable Me, about a diabolical super villain and his expeditions of evil and fatherhood. Now we get Megamind, another animated comedy where the villain is allowed the opportunity to be the protagonist. In Despicable Me superheroes were virtually obsolete, making it easy for Mr. Gru to wreak havoc. Megamind, on the other hand, is confronted with a super adversary the day he arrives on earth.
Provided with the energetic voice of Will Ferrell, Megamind is a blue alien with a massive noggin that could rival The Red Queen's in Alice in Wonderland. He is only an infant when his home planet is sucked into a black hole and his parents send him to earth. Little Megamind starts off trying to win the effective of earth's inhabitants. But he is always one-upped by another young otherworldly boy. This alien grows up to be Metro Man, a chisel jawed Superman voiced by Brad Pitt. With the hero role filled, Megamind assumes the villain position. Along with his fish minion, voiced by David Cross, he engages in a never-ending war with Metro Man to claim Metro City.
Among the citizens of Metro City are a plucky, Lois Lane-like reporter named Roxanne Ritchi, voiced by Tina Fey, and her chubby, ginger-haired cameraman named Hal, voiced by Johan Hill. Roxanne is constantly finding herself in the middle of Metro Man and Megamind's quarrels. So often that she doesn't even cringe when Megamind kidnaps her and unleashes his alligators and death ray. Everything has become routine. Matters change, however, when Megamind actually succeeds in destroying Metro Man, leaving nothing behind but his cape and skeleton.
This is a promising premise for a satire that follows the age-old question: "What would happen if the coyote caught the roadrunner?" Unfortunately, once Metro Man is defeated the film runs out of things for Megamind to do rather quickly. With nobody to challenge Megamind, he goes about the city stealing from banks and littering. After a while though, he starts to miss the thrill he got from battling his old nemesis. He wishes Metro Man were still around to provide that missing action and so does the audience.
Megamind is beautifully animated, creating a dazzling city of mounting skyscrapers that are wonderful to look at in 2D or 3D. There are great voiceover performances all around. What Megamind lacks in though is the joke department, missing many chances to poke fun at the superhero genre. The film does provide some occasional clever jokes, such as a reference to Marlon Brando's role in the original Superman. But most of the film feels like it's on autopilot and provides few laugh-out-loud moments.
The high point of the movie is the relationship that blossoms between Megamind and Roxanne Ritchi. There's a surprising sweetness to their romance, although I don't want to even think about what their offspring would look like. DreamWorks Animation Studios has been known for this role reversal scenario in which an unlikely being saves the day and gets the girl, most notably the Shrek films. While Megamind has the craft and talent to make an A-list animated film, it doesn't have the wit or inspiration of the best contemporary animated features. It's not a film I can quite recommend for older audiences to see. But if you parents give into your children's demands to see Megamind this holiday season, chances are they won't be disappointed.