By Bill Wine
A villain needs a hero the way a bullet needs a gun.
That’s the lesson learned by the extraterrestrial title character in Megamind, an animated comedy with something spirited but derivative on its mind, mega or not.
Will Ferrell provides the voice of the megalomaniacal Megamind, a blue-headed alien supervillain with a backstory not unlike that of Superman: he has come from another planet, from which he was sent away in a pod as a baby before it was destroyed.
His problem is that his nemesis — the vain, caped, and immensely popular celebrity superhero Metro Man, the protector of the megalopolis (voiced by Brad Pitt) — was dispatched from the same home planet. But his pod landed in a home of privilege while Megamind’s landed in a prison.
Now, Megamind — who, were he in an actual Superman flick, would be the equivalent of Lex Luthor — spends his days doing battle with Metro Man, as they vie for the hearts and minds of the Metro City public, while Lois Lane-like reporter Roxanne Ritchie (Tina Fey), whom Megamind is beginning to develop feelings for, reports on his exploits on television.
Megamind has always wanted to take over Metro City and the Metro Man has always stood in his way. Until now, when Megamind finally manages to do away with his muscular, square-jawed adversary.
And what does he discover to his dismay? That life without an archrival is only half a life. At most.
So, in order to regain a balance in his curiously unfulfilling life, Megamind attempts to crate a new superhero that he can do battle with. He turns Roxanne’s cameraman Hal (Jonah Hill) into the titanic Titan.
Unfortunately for everybody — including and especially Megamind — Titan decides that he’d rather terrorize the world than save it.
Which means that Megamind, aided by his fish-like sidekick, Minion (David Cross), must destroy his recent creation in order to (gulp) save the world, thus (gulp!) redeeming himself (yuck).
The director, Tom McGrath (Madagascar and its sequel), includes plenty of high-energy slapstick as he moves things along rapidly, borrowing liberally from animated attractions like The Incredibles along the way.
In spoofing the superhero genre, screenwriters Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons have provided the kind of smartalecky humor that keeps grownups from feeling disenfranchised. But their narrative is a bit too close to that of Despicable Me, which offered villain Steve Carell as Gru, a character with numerous parallels to Megamind.
Originality is not the trump suit in Metro City.
There’s admittedly plenty of plot, but the film tends to repeat itself. The dynamic use of the 3-D process helps to keep things visually interesting, but the narrative runs out of steam well before the climax.
And although the voice work by Ferrell, Fey, Hill, and Cross is distinctive and effective, the marquee-enhancing Pitt barely registers at all.
Few if any of these complaints, however, will bother the young target audience.
So we’ll fly over 2½ stars out of 4 for Megamind, an animated lark that your kids will enjoy and that you won’t (mega)mind too much sitting through.