Megamind (Will Ferrell) and Metroman (Brad Pitt) are both inhabitants of other planets sent to Earth as babies when their worlds are destroyed. Metroman flourishes on Earth; handsome, strong, and capable, he naturally fills the role of defender of Metro City. For Megamind it's simply a realization that he's really good at being bad, which leads him to pursue a career as a full-time super villain alongside his trusty companion Minion (David Cross). Megamind and Metroman slip into their roles as hero and villain with ease, as capable reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey) keeps the city informed. The plot moves along at a brisk pace, no time for asking too many questions, and the moral dilemma, once it's revealed, seems like it should be an interesting one. Megamind's plans continually go awry, and when Metroman is suddenly out of the picture, Megamind is jubilant until he realizes that his happy ending of total domination isn't as happy as he'd imagined, that evil is nothing without good, and sets out to create a hero -- Tighten (Jonah Hill) -- for the people of Metro City. Will Megamind ever find another nemesis like Metroman?
The not-so-secret secret is that Megamind isn't really as "evil" as he thinks he is. He doesn't hurt anyone, he just wants to get locked away and get out, wreak a little havoc, destroy a few buildings and then get put back in the slammer. He knows the rules, and he has a good reason for being the way he is. As a child, we see Megamind rejected by the people he attempts to impress, and so gains revenge by pretending he doesn't need acceptance -- because (to others) he seems to be bad, he must be bad. Tina Fey's character, Roxanne, is a short-haired brunette with a lot of zip and gusto and verve and whatever it is that modern women are supposed to be possessing. Her character isn't afraid of Megamind; she has correctly deduced that he is fairly incompetent for all his villainous behavior. In many ways, she is the hero of the story, a strong women surrounded by useless men who deceive, disrespect, or simply disdain her. Her love for Metro City helps Megamind to see the value in building up a place rather than simply destroying it. As he begins to see the world through Roxie's eyes, Megamind struggles with the same feelings of inadequacy that we all do: this person won't love me for who I am, so I must pretend to be someone different. This fear that we won't be loved may be at the root of every act of violence or sadness in the film. But when loved, Megamind becomes lovable and additionally seeks to better the world. And really this is one heck of a message, that love is powerful enough to transform something evil into something good. Too bad it's kind of hard to extrapolate that from the movie, and I don't know that kids will notice it in between the gadgets, gizmos, and evil plots.
One plus that parents may appreciate is the lack of potty-humor, as well as a few references to other films, such as Marlon Brando in Superman. And yes, the first time you hear Ferrell's Brando impression, it's pretty funny. Megamind is a technological genius, able to fabricate and design all sorts of fantastic gadgetry. The flying objects and cool widgets he creates alongside Minion are interesting enough to almost save the film from being a complete waste of time. Other than that, the film is bland to look at, and the animation style is such that even the humans look like aliens, though that may be the point. The setting of Metro City is a nebulous large city somewhat reminiscent of New York but excessively clean, all smooth gradients and clean lines. The animation and modeling of the actual characters is fine but nothing special. Even the 3-D technology isn't utilized particularly well except in a few flying sequences. In what may be one of the oddest moves, there are no other actual characters than the five main ones. The people who live in the city sort of passively exist merely to exalt Metroman or fear Megamind with no other discernible qualities or attributes.
Pixar imbues their films with emotion, depth, and a soundness of heart that is evident throughout their entire body of work. DreamwWorks' films feel hollow, very close to the real thing, but anything less than perfect ends up like Megamind. It's alright but ultimately an entirely forgettable film without any quotable lines or memorable moments. There's nothing terribly wrong with it, but there's nothing terribly right with it either. Kids might like it, but with the price of 3-D climbing slowly higher, this isn't worth the expensive outing. After the enormous promise that DreamWorks showed with the wonderfully fun How To Train Your Dragon, there seemed to be a holding of breath, waiting to see what would come next for the studio that can't seem to release a hit. Megamind is much more of a sigh than a shout.