Rarely have I seen a film work harder to achieve adequacy, but I must admit that the efforts pay off since Tom McGrath’s Megamind does scale the heights to attain that level. I have a hunch, however, that McGrath and company had their sights set a little higher than adequacy. Unfortunately, anything higher eluded them. Apart from the fact that Megamind feels like a combination of The Incredibles (2004) and this year’s Despicable Me, there’s nothing all that wrong with the film—except that it has no real identity to call its own and has the inescapable feeling of having been ordered from a Chinese-restaurant menu of earlier movies.
The film’s premise is fine. Both Megamind (Will Ferrell) and Metro Man (Brad Pitt) are shipped off to Earth from dying planets as infants, and both land in Metro City—except Metro Man ends up with rich folks and Megamind finds himself raised by the inmates of a prison. Metro Man is trained into a life of service to humanity (never mind that he would more likely be schooled in insider trading), while Megamind is brought up to revere evil. In other words, one is groomed to be a superhero and the other a super villain. That Megamind is also blue with a head shaped like a lightbulb and Metro Man has cartoonish classically chiseled features may also have something to do with their respective life paths.
The basic plot follows what happens when Megamind manages at long last to vanquish Metro Man—much to Megamind’s own surprise and almost entirely by accident. This, of course, leaves Metro City at the mercy of the villain, but it doesn’t take long for Megamind to find life pretty boring with no nemesis to fight. The solution? What else but to create a new foe to fill this need. Much predictability follows and a not-very-surprising surprise. It’s all perfectly watchable and mildly entertaining, but not much more.
Probably the cleverest thing about the movie is having Megamind’s minion—named Minion (David Cross)—designed after the infamous Ro-Man from the grade Z cult classic Robot Monster (1953). Having Megamind present himself as Marlon Brando’s Jor-El (complete with a pretty good Brando impression) when training his new nemesis is also pretty good. Otherwise, the movie is just kind of an autopilot affair. Perhaps nowhere is this more obvious than in the film’s pop-song sound track. Not only has every song on its playlist been in other movies, but also at least two of them—the Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” and Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again Naturally”—have adorned other animated films. “Mr. Blue Sky” was in Doogal (2005) and “Alone Again Naturally” showed up in both Stuart Little 2 (2002) and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009).
Megamind is painless. It’s not bad—simply unremarkable. I was comfortable enough watching it. I never checked the time to see when it would be over. My sense is that small children will be happy enough with it—though the lack of body-function humor may leave them feeling strangely unfulfilled. Is that an endorsement? Not really. I tend to want a little more out of a movie—especially with a 3-D “special event” surcharge. Rated PG for action and some language.