With the voices of Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, David Cross. Directed by Tom McGrath. Rated PG for action and some language. 96 minutes.
MEGAMIND wants to be the DreamWorks Animation version of Pixar’s “The Incredibles.” On a head-to-head basis, Pixar wins hands-down. DreamWorks does very good work, and the film is much more amusing than some of the commercials made it seem, but it’s not a movie that breaks any new ground. In a lot of ways, we’ve been here before.
Megamind (voice of Will Ferrell) is sent to Earth by his parents when his home planet is dying, just like Superman. Unfortunately, another infant-carrying ship beats him there and with the baby getting wealthy parents and the love of humanity, eventually growing up to become Metro Man (Brad Pitt). Constantly rejected, Megamind decides to devote his life to evil, including frequently kidnapping feisty reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey). Consider the talent here, it’s odd that the voice cast comes across as pretty generic with Ferrell sounding like he’s channeling Jim Carrey.
The big twist occurs early on when Megamind obliterates his opponent. What will he do now? Letting evil reign supreme works for a little while, but then he grows bored and decides to create a new hero – Titan (Jonah Hill) – in order to have someone to fight. Then something goes wrong…
It quickly becomes apparent that this is not only trading on “The Incredibles,” complete with a would-be hero who turns bad, but also the recent “Despicable Me” where an arch-villain is drawn to the side of good. Even having a minion dubbed Minion (David Cross) is a repeat from “Despicable Me,” although having it as an intelligent fish who goes around in a gorilla suit is certainly different. As stories go, it’s pretty formulaic. Since the 3D is colorful but equally pedestrian and unnecessary, what’s left to save the film are the gags.
The jokes are hit or miss. One of the cleverest is likely to go flying over the heads of the children in the audience, involving Megamind transforming himself into the “space father” of his newly created superhero. He looks and sounds like a miniature version of Marlon Brandon as Jor-El in “Superman.”
Another cute running gag – dating back to at least the 1950s sitcom “The Honeymooners” – has Megamind improbably mispronouncing things, like referring to “Metro City” as “Metrocity.” Too often, though, it’s just a series of one-liners. Megamind telling Roxanne he’s discontinued the “frequent kidnapping” promotion is a stretch, and audiences burnt-out on politics may cringe at the poster spoofing Shepard Fairey’s famous Obama poster substituting Megamind and the caption “No you can’t.”
The result is a movie which, following the lame final entry in the “Shrek” series, makes one wonder if DreamWorks Animation is running out of steam. The visual design is clever and colorful, the story moves along, but the result is something with which to pass the time, not one to savor and look forward to repeat viewings. “Megamind” is more above average than “mega,” but for moviegoers looking for something special in this dismal year at the movies, that may be enough.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.