Movie review: Megamind

The themes are familiar, but a strong vocal cast makes this supervillain vs superhero film a lot of fun.

Will Ferrell provides one of the star voices as the supervillian in Megamind.
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Director: Tom McGrath.

Starring: (Voices of) Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, Brad Pitt

What happens when a supervillain finally wins? That's the question this movie asks, when Megamind (voiced by Will Ferrell), the scourge of Metro City and the long-time arch-enemy of its champion, Metro Man (Brad Pitt), kills his nemesis in an epic battle. Far from being elated, Megamind finds that without someone to fight, being a supervillain isn't very much fun at all. Realising he will never be back to his old self until the counterbalance to his evil is restored, he attempts to "create" a new hero using the nerdy Hal (Jonah Hill). He also finds himself falling for Roxanne Ritchie (Tina Fey), the Metro City reporter and rumoured former girlfriend of Metro Man.

The subject matter is, without a doubt, perilous territory for DreamWorks, given that its rival Pixar dealt with similar themes terrifically in one of its biggest hits, The Incredibles. It is by this comparison that Megamind suffers, and the plot doesn't really go anywhere that countless CG animations haven't been already. The first half an hour is made even more tediously familiar by its similarity to previous DreamWorks animations (Roxanne Ritchie looks almost exactly the same as Susan Murphy, the lead character from Monsters Vs Aliens). However, the story gains momentum and the little genre references strewn throughout are a particularly winning touch (Ferrell's nod to Marlon Brando's cameo in Superman is a hilarious highlight). Added to this is a vital ingredient, as Megamind himself puts it, presentation. The scale on which the story is told is impressive, and more than suits being in 3D, showing off without resorting to the cheaper tricks of the format.

It's the vocal cast that is Megamind's biggest selling point, however. Ferrell in particular brings a lot of personality to what is quite a visually dull character. With a subtle twist to his normal live-action routine (an oaf who doesn't know he's an oaf) it carries the story. He sparks well with Fey, playing an interesting twist on the Lois Lane archetype. It's difficult to believe that Pitt hasn't given his voice to more animated roles, and although his character only makes a brief appearance, it's long enough to poke fun gamely at his golden-boy image. A clever script supplies strong support to the performances

A much bigger ride than this year's other supervillain animation, Despicable Me, Megamind manages to overcome its weaknesses with the same energy that made films such as Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon such surprise hits for DreamWorks. Ferrell adds another string to his comedy bow, providing most of the laughs and making sometimes tired storylines feel fresh. It may not raise the bar of this rapidly developing genre, but it manages to pack a lot of fun and spectacle into its running time.

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