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'Megamind' needs more mega-laughs

by Tyler Wilson
| November 12, 2010 8:00 PM

Hiring A-list talent to voice cartoon characters is no new concept for Dreamworks Animation. Even in their best films, stars frequently headline the marquee (Jack Black is "Kung Fu Panda," Mike Myers is "Shrek").

"Megamind" follows the pattern, with comedian Will Ferrell voicing the title super-villain, Tina Fey as the love interest and Brad Pitt as Megamind's heroic foil. The story riffs on the long-played superhero genre with energy to spare, but even with so much comedic talent, the laughs fall short.

After years of ridicule and failure, blue superbrain Megamind has established a comfortable, if embarrassing, routine: Threaten the world, hold the cute TV reporter (Fey) hostage, get butt kicked by Metro Man (Pitt), then stew in prison until the next calamitous scheme.

The film only follows this traditional hero vs. villain storyline for a short time. "Megamind" is more about what happens to the villain after the hero takes an extended holiday. How does the bad guy (with a secret heart of gold) continue his evil behavior when there's nobody around to stop him?

To Megamind, the answer is create a new hero to terrorize. That job inadvertently falls to a portly cameraman (Jonah Hill), but he doesn't operate with the same moral gusto as Metro Man.

"Megamind" has the disadvantage of being the second animated film this year about a lovable supervillain. The first, "Despicable Me," had a less frantic storyline and a few more laughs, thanks in no small part to Steve Carell's goofy accent.

Ferrell gives a solid effort as Megamind, especially in scenes where he poses as a Brando-esque spaceman to fool his new nemesis. The script just doesn't give him much material. Fey, meanwhile, is a bit stifled with the film's most one-note character, and Pitt is in and out of the picture far too frequently.

The added talents of Hill and David Cross, as Megamind's devoted Minion, do little to help the proceedings. There isn't even much slapstick for the kids to enjoy.

While "Megamind" should be funnier, the movie at least succeeds when it makes deliberate alterations to typical superhero lore. It can be fun to root for the bad guy, and the twists involving both Metro Man and the portly cameraman prevents "Megamind" from ever losing momentum.

The 3-D looks solid too, especially in a few high-flying action sequences. Whether it's worth the additional cost of admission is another question altogether.

Ultimately, "Megamind" falls into the trap of many Dreamworks productions: It assumes a notable cast of comedic talent equates to instant laughs. This one needed another script punch-up. And with Tina Fey already in the cast, they didn't even need to look too far.

Grade: B-

Ticket Stubs is sponsored by the Hayden Cinema 6 Theater. Tyler Wilson can be reached at twilson@cdapress.com. Read more film reviews and pop culture commentary at www.NormdogEntertainment.com.

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