I’ll be perfectly honest. I went into MEGAMIND fully expecting to hate it. I didn’t find the trailers to be particularly funny, the characters looked uninteresting, and the look of the movie reminded me of MONSTERS VS. ALIENS, which failed to win me over. In short, I went into MEGAMIND with very low expectations and I mainly went to support my friends who worked on the film. Furthermore, as a dyed in the wool lifetime comic book geek, skipping out on such an unabashed homage to comic books would be nothing short of sacrilege. Having now seen it, MEGAMIND far exceeded my expectations and I couldn’t be happier to have been proven wrong. Although I doubt this was actually the case, DreamWorks seems to have finally allowed its director to exercise unrestrained creative control over the material and give us something that doesn’t drip with studio executive interference. MEGAMIND doesn’t quite match the excellence of THE INCREDIBLES, but it comes pretty damn close and that’s saying quite a lot given my unhealthy worship of THE INCREDIBLES.

MEGAMIND is to Superman as THE INCREDIBLES is to the Fantastic Four. Both films pay homage to the original material that inspire them while also coming up with a fantastic narrative and great original characters (this gets me wondering why comic book companies suck so badly at creating new and interesting characters whereas filmmakers seem to do this effortlessly). MEGAMIND is the name of our main character (Will Ferrell), a supervillain who along with his sidekick, Minion (David Cross), lives in the metropolis, Metro City, and serves as the archnemesis of Metro City’s guardian, Metro Man (Brad Pitt). Since birth, the two have waged a continuous struggle that always results in Megamind’s eventual defeat. Everyone loves Metro Man, including his reporter girlfriend, Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey), who always seems to get kidnapped by Megamind only to be saved by Metro Man. To the astonishment of the citizens of Metro City and especially to Megamind, the supervillain finally kills Metro Man. With Metro City now at his disposal, Megamind embarks upon a supervillain shopping spree, turning the city into his virtual playground. However, Megamind soon realizes that life without Metro Man is boring and meaningless. For every villain, there must be a hero and without one, there is no justification for Megamind’s continued existence. So Megamind sets out to create a new hero to serve as his nemesis. Concocting a formula that will imbue a person with Metro Man’s powers, Megamind ends up turning Roxanne’s nerdy cameraman (Jonah Hill) into Metro City’s new hero, Titan. Unfortunately, Megamind’s plan backfires in a huge way as Titan decides that being bad is cooler than being good.

DreamWorks Animation’s films have developed a distinctive style that can best be described as pop culture humor. With the success of SHREK, DreamWorks Animation has found a successful narrative formula that involves injecting every scene with some sort of reference to something that is popular in our culture today. This formula has worked so well that the majority of DreamWorks’ films all contain a similar style of humor. As funny as it is upon an initial viewing, the biggest drawback to using current pop culture is that the film quickly becomes outdated. To a studio, that’s not very important so long as it makes a boatload of money during its domestic and international theatrical runs and its DVD and Blu-Ray sales. MEGAMIND is chock full of pop culture references, which not surprisingly are mostly geared toward comic books and comic book movies. I wasn’t annoyed by the references in this movie for a number of reasons. For one thing, the references are better integrated into the story so they don’t stand apart or exist for the sake of just making a joke. Second, Will Ferrell is running on all cylinders in this movie, making his performance here one of the best he’s given in his career. The rapid-fire jokes work very well and the quality and approach of the humor reminded me of Robin Williams’ Genie role in ALADDIN. My enjoyment of Ferrell’s performance barely made me notice all the pop culture references. Finally, as I said before, I am a huge comic book fan so much of the pop culture references were ones I could relate to and appreciate much more than I would otherwise.

MEGAMIND has a surprisingly original story. I say ‘surprisingly’ because based on the trailers, I was expecting a standard superhero vs. supervillain storyline that contained a bunch of jokes. The marketing wisely refrains from revealing too much of the story or what the story is truly about for that matter. The filmmakers took a fresh approach in telling the narrative from the supervillain’s point of view, which is just one of the few original aspects of MEGAMIND. However, what really surprised the hell out of me was the film’s ending. If there is one weakness that plagues almost every DreamWorks Animation film, it’s the inability to come up with a satisfactory ending. I have my affirmed suspicions as to why this is, but I won’t go into it for confidentiality purposes. Suffice it to say that, with the exception of MEGAMIND and a few other films, I have grown accustomed to getting piss poor lame endings with just about every DreamWorks Animation movie.

The trailers make it pretty obvious that MEGAMIND is all about Megamind, which means that if you’re not a fan of Will Ferrell, you might want to stay away from this movie. I have generally found Ferrell funny, but his past few films, especially this past summer’s THE OTHER GUYS, have been disappointing and his humor has begun to get stale. I don’t know whether its Ben Stiller’s involvement with MEGAMIND or that the animation medium is better suited to Ferrell’s wacky humor instead of live-action. Whatever it is, Ferrell is hilarious here and I just kept wanting to see more and more of him.

With the exception of Roxanne Ritchi, who is boring in physical appearance and character development, the remaining cast of characters are great and they are perfectly matched with the actors who voice them. He’s not in much of the movie, but Brad Pitt as Metro Man is wonderful as the arrogant, douchebag superhero who is used to being adored by the citizens of Metro City. David Cross as Megamind’s sidekick, Minion, is another delight and although I’m sick of seeing main animated characters having sidekicks, Cross perfectly complements Ferrell’s humor and together they make a classic team. As for Jonah Hill, his Titan character is a perfect blend of geeky humor and menace and Hill pulls it off masterfully in a type of role we have not seen him do until now. Tina Fey is the only wasted casting choice and I felt that any actress could have voiced her character, especially given that Roxanne Ritchi isn’t even supposed to be funny. Its clear that Fey was cast simply so that her name could be used to sell the movie.

Based on the trailers, I was not very encouraged about the look of MEGAMIND. Much of it reminded me of MONSTERS VS. ALIENS, which felt rushed and unattractive looking. MEGAMIND looks better than that, but it still reminds me of a slightly more expensive looking version of a Saturday morning cartoon show. I wish the filmmakers had either chosen to make the film realistic or highly stylistic in look. With its vibrant and cheerful colors, uniformly illuminated lighting scheme, and untextured surfaces, MEGAMIND appears like something dictated by toy and marketing executives to appeal to little kids. Everything has a plastic, shiny sheen to it and I didn’t like that just like I didn’t like it on MONSTERS VS. ALIENS. Fortunately, however, the plot and characters of the movie are strong enough to overcome these shortcomings.

In the end, I was surprisingly pleased by the finished product. MEGAMIND is no HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON or TOY STORY 3, but it is an original and funny movie that ranks among DreamWorks Animation’s better films. I saw this movie in 3D and I can say that you will not be missing anything if you opt to see it in 2D instead. Unlike HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, which took advantage of the 3D technology, MEGAMIND does not and I practically forgot I was even watching the film in 3D. Moreover, it appears that no one in Hollywood has been able to solve the darkness problem in which the picture looks darker in 3D than it does in 2D. Regardless, MEGAMIND is an escapist popcorn movie that will provide you with a lot of entertainment, especially if you like comic books and Will Ferrell.