Megamind is a good film. That is its basic problem. It’s just good. Animation today has set itself to too high a standard to just settle for good. At a time when mainstream cinema has, by and large, run out of ideas, animated cinema is getting more daring and original every passing year. While mainstream cinema regards its audience as having cheese for brains, animation studios respect their audience and expect them to engage with the films and their ideas intellectually. Even if we exclude Pixar for its unparalleled awesomeness, Dreamworks Animation itself has churned out some fantastically entertaining films like Shrek, Chicken Run, Kung Fu Panda, Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit and most recently, How to Train Your Dragon. The problem with Megamind is that it is ordinary. It doesn’t have the inventiveness of Shrek, the humour of Kung Fu Panda or the heart and exuberance of How To Train Your Dragon. It has a bit of everything put together into an uneven film with a few highs and lows in an otherwise whole lot of middle. Nevertheless, some good laughs, smart twists and a borderline great climax save it from being a total waste.
The story is familiar terrain: Megamind (Will Ferrell) enjoys being evil and finds his nemesis in Metroman (Brad Pitt). Since birth, the fates of these two have been intertwined and they have battled several times with Megamind always on the losing side. However, in an unexpected turn of events, Megamind finally defeats Metroman and becomes the ruler of Metro City. He also creates an alter ego that starts dating Roxanne Ritchie (Tina Fey), a TV journalist who also has to deal with the advances of her bumbling, creepy cameraman (Jonah Hill). However, he realises that a villain has no purpose without a hero. To amend the situation, he decides to do something unthinkable with disastrous consequences.
Considering the talent involved, Megamind could have been sharper, funnier and just, plain and simple, better. Even Will Farrell lacks his usual infectious energy, perhaps because of the lack of his usual poop jokes. Tina Fey tries really hard to make the one-liners work but succeeds only in part. The real culprits here are the story which is painfully routine for the most part and a script that is flat and falls prey to clichés. The film lacks the heart that made How To Train Your Dragon so endearing. It also feels like a recycling of the Dreamworks formula of telling the story of the likable but ugly, misunderstood hero/villain. It's true: look at the Shrek series, Shark Tale, Kung Fu Panda and How To Train Your Dragon. It's always broadly the same story and themes being recycled over and over. That by itself would not be a fault except that Megamind has none of the other qualities that made some of those films great, at least not in the same measure.
Having said that, the film is not without its share of bright moments. The Superman references, in particular, are absolutely spot on and evoke much laughter and nostalgia throughout. The soundtrack puts some very popular tracks to good use. The pre-climax twists help retain the viewer’s otherwise dwindling interest in the film and a surprisingly well executed climax saves the film from oblivion. IMDB tells me Guillermo Del Toro was called in to edit the film to make it more exciting. I have a strong suspicion that the final half hour was all his doing.
At the end of the day, Megamind is not really a bad film. In general movie sense, it is good one. It will keep the kids entertained for sure and should elicit at least a few chuckles from the adults as well. However, in the animation universe, where the bar is being pushed higher with every passing year, Megamind is too run of the mill, too mediocre to be remembered for long after you leave the theatres. And that’s just not worth paying the premium for a 3D experience.