It all comes down to bad timing.
Megamind (voiced by Will Ferrell) is a lightbulb-headed uber-genius, shot down from the stars à la Superboy. Unlucky for him, he reaches Earth at the same time as another, cuter alien baby (Brad Pitt).
The latter grows up to be the gleaming Metro Man, defender of Metro City. Megamind, on the other hand, becomes a master of evil, thwarted by his rival again and again. Until one day he actually defeats Metro Man and is left with the devastating question: with no superhero left to battle, what use is a supervillain?
Megamind’s quest for the answer propels DreamWorks’ tooner down intriguing, unpredictable avenues.
Sure, like the similarly baddie-centric Despicable Me, it’s not as subversive as it first appears. And by the Pixar yardstick (The Incredibles being most relevant), it lacks the personal, magic touch that distinguishes a great film from a very good one.
At the same time, it scarcely puts a super-foot wrong. Ferrell has a ball with his character’s comic vanity, Pitt is superbly smug and Jonah Hill is enjoyably odious in a minor role that balloons into a major one.
Director Tom McGrath, meanwhile, tempers the shrill slapstick of his Madagascar movies with smooth pacing, smart gags and an emotional undertow that avoids Despicable Me’s over-sentimentality.
As an added bonus, the 3D doesn’t feel like an afterthought. The city is the star there: fights above and around skyscrapers are both whizzy and woozy, while streetlevel views recede deep into the screen.
No, James Cameron’s head probably won’t explode, but it’s another layer of varnish on a polished entertainment.