Bye-bye, crazy talking animals. Scatterbrained scientists and superheroes with issues have become the go-to characters in the latest breed of CGI movies. From The Incredibles and Monsters vs. Aliens to Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Despicable Me, animated films of recent vintage have replaced smartass raccoons and neurotic giraffes with frazzled-hair eggheads and spandex-clad blowhards.
It's a logical step. After all, not much separates the Spider-Man and Iron Man franchises from, say, Shrek or Madagascar — just a turbo-powered computer or two. Besides, superheroes and scientists are more complex than a talking turtle — and more human. A skewed view of that humanity fuels the latest CGI superhero movie, Megamind, a typically overstuffed candy shop of sights, sounds, and inflated egos from the same animation studio that brought you Shrek, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Kung Fu Panda.
Megamind (voiced by Will Ferrell) and Metro Man (Brad Pitt) take sides on Earth after fleeing their own tumultuous planets: Metro Man plays the hero, Megamind the villain. After tearing through Metro City during another one of their frequent battles, Megamind finally defeats Metro Man. But his celebration doesn't last long. With no one to fight, Megamind grows bored and decides to shape TV cameraman Hal (Jonah Hill) into a new nemesis, Tighten.
But Tighten has no interest in playing the good guy and turns out to be a more evil villain than Megamind, who's now faced with a crisis: Does he join forces with his out-of-control creation, or does he switch sides and become a superhero who saves the day? You probably already know the answer.
It all starts when Megamind and Metro Man are kids, and their destinies are set (Megamind's space pod crash-lands in a prison courtyard, where he's raised by convicts). Over the years, Megamind and Metro Man become bitter rivals, with Metro Man always getting the upper hand, whether in schoolyard games or in grown-up fights above Metro City. On the same day the city is dedicating a new museum to Metro Man, Megamind escapes from prison (again), kidnaps TV reporter Roxanne (Tina Fey), and fights Metro Man, apparently to the death this time.
After declaring himself "Evil Overlord" of Metro City and taking over the entire region, Megamind spends his days bored and depressed, chatting with his fish-like Minion (David Cross). "What's the point in being bad when there's no one good to stop you?" he asks. So he comes up with a plan to create a new hero, which quickly spirals out of control.
Like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (which was way funnier and smarter than most CGI movies), Megamind keeps its story centered without cramming in too many throwaway scenes or juvenile jokes. Ferrell injects it with his usual mix of clueless confidence (he mispronounces words) and undeserving arrogance (he's his own biggest fan). There are plenty of little winks at recent superhero movies, as well as several pop-culture nudges along the way.
Still, Megamind can't resist playing by the rules much of the time. There's nothing groundbreaking here, and even the movie's best scenes — the city-demolishing battles, Megamind's awkward relationships, the story arc — are cribbed from other CGI hits. Megamind's greatest strength is its ability to corral all of them into a movie that isn't all that super, but is an occasionally funny good time.
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PULL QUOTE: Megamind keeps its story centered without cramming in too many throwaway scenes or juvenile jokes.
CAPTION: Megamind blue himself.