A dastardly super-villain who turned evil because of a bad upbringing finds himself seduced to the good side to defeat an even badder guy.
The movie is called "Megamind," but didn't we just see this last summer in "Despicable Me"?
The latest action comedy from DreamWorks Animation, "Megamind" features dazzling computer-animated design and action. Yet despite a clever hook — what's a villain to do when he manages to defeat his superhero nemesis? — it's a thin story that feels familiar and unfolds with no surprises.
The movie offers an amiably goofy voice cast led by Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey and Jonah Hill, whose wisecracks are cute if not terribly memorable.
Director Tom McGrath ("Madagascar" and its sequel) and screenwriters Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons aim to keep the pace moving as fast as a speeding bullet as blue, bulbous-headed Megamind (Ferrell) battles superpowered hero Metro Man (Pitt) for control of Metro City.
The story borrows liberally from "Superman" as both Megamind and Metro Man begin as infants on distant, dying worlds, dispatched to Earth in space pods. Metro Man lands in a loving foster home, while Megamind gets dumped among prison inmates, setting him on his evil path and creating his rivalry with his heroic foe.
Fey is the Lois Lane stand-in as TV reporter Roxanne Ritchi, perpetually the focus of Megamind's attempts to ensnare Metro Man. Hill's a geeky cameraman who's in love with Roxanne and later becomes a new menace to Metro City as Megamind tries to fashion him into a replacement superhero after he actually vanquishes Metro Man.
With the smart, capable Roxanne, Fey delivers a real performance full of genuine tics and temperament, as opposed to the mostly caricatured vocals her male co-stars provide.
The Krypton connection continues as Ferrell does a mildly amusing riff on Marlon Brando as Superman's raspy dad from Christopher Reeves' first "Superman" flick.
Mildly amusing is the pattern throughout "Megamind." The patter is a bit witty, the schemes are sort of crafty. But nothing in the story or dialogue ever leaps out and grabs you.
Not so the images. The movie's 3-D version bursts off the screen, sometimes distractingly as vehicles, explosions, even smashed buildings are hurled into viewers' faces.
The most impressive thing about "Megamind" is the city itself, a richly detailed skyline of steely skyscrapers. The dizzying heights are so authentic in 3-D that some of the mid-air action sequences bring on a faint sense of vertigo.
Unfortunately, the underdeveloped story and characters seem to be there to service the visuals, rather than the other way around.
It's no great surprise that competing studios would churn out two super-villain cartoons within a few months, considering how prevalent superhero stories are on the big screen. A smaller coincidence — the fact that Megamind's fish-faced accomplice (David Cross) is named Minion, while Steve Carell's villain in "Despicable Me" was aided by cute lab assistants called Minions — only reinforces the feeling that we've seen all of this before.
Of course, if we're making comparisons, Pixar Animation's 2004 triumph "The Incredibles" remains the gold standard for cartoon superhero tales. With six years of computer-animation advancements behind it, "Megamind" may be an improvement visually, but for story, character and emotion, it's a lightweight sidekick next to Pixar's epic adventure.