Last summer Gru invaded multiplexes and American audiences applauded Steve Carrell's conniving, misunderstood villain. Yet critics, as they normally do, spoiled some of the fun for Despicable Me fans, scoffing that it was yet another DreamWorks title that was trying too hard to ape the earnest nature and quirky humor of the Pixar brand. That narrative rears its head as the studio releases Megamind, once again starring a sensitive super-villain in a plot that recalls Pixar's The Incredibles.
The film, originally titled Oobermind, stars Will Ferrell as the titular villain alongside—who else—Brad Pitt as the Superman-lite "Metro Man" and intrepid reporter Tina Fey along for the ride. So far, it's garnering tepidly favorable responses from critics. But, try as they might, the reviewers can't help but notice that it doesn't live up to the lofty animation standards set by the industry-leading Pixar. "Why settle for less when you the best is already available on DVD?" asks Slate's Josh Levin. Somewhere out there, DreamWorks execs are rolling their eyes.
- Megamind Is Like the Microsoft Zune argues Slate's Josh Levin, who makes the case that the Dreamworks title recalls Microsoft's fruitless chase to pursue Apple with an iPod knock-off: "While DreamWorks' latest, Megamind, claims to redefine the superhero movie, in reality it's the Zune of motion pictures: a spiffy, well-designed product that's also unmistakably an off-brand imitation. It's no great shame to suffer by comparison to The Incredibles—most movies, animated or otherwise, don't measure up. Still, DreamWorks should've been smarter than to tug on Mr. Incredible's cape...The inevitable outcome: Megamind is an expertly made animated feature that serves to highlight everything Pixar does well."
- Still Not 'Nearly as Rich' as 'The Incredibles' writes Justin Chang in a lukewarm Variety review of the movie. Like other Dreamworks animation films it remains beholden to "nonstop jokey humor in service of a desperate bid for pop-culture relevance, stuffed with obvious musical choices (like Michael Jackson's 'Bad'), bizarre throwaway references to other movies (like 'The Karate Kid') and attempts to channel the slang of its presumed target audience (one character threatens to 'go all gangster' on another), always playing to the viewer rather than inhabiting a fully imagined story."
- Follows in the Footsteps of 'Despicable Me' scoffs Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman, who prefers to ruminate on the litany of misunderstood villains in animated films this year. "I'm not quite sure what the trend adds up to, but could it be that evil, in kiddie flicks, has finally become innocuous? Considering that Toy Story 3 had one of the great villains of the year (Lotso the bear), I would say no," he hedges. Getting around to Megamind, he concludes that it's "less a satire of dastardly deeds than a nimbly spectacular comedy of ego." (In other words, that amounts to a B+)
- Actually, It's the Worst of Both Those Titles In one of the more flippant critiques of the film, Joe Neumaier at The New York Daily News found slight amusement at the talents of Pitt, Ferrell and Fey as voice actors. "These three megastars are the only fun in Megamind, which plays out like a clunky, not-so-incredible Incredibles, or a more-despicable Despicable Me. It looks great and starts out with the right feel and attitude, but never really takes flight....[it's] a megawaste," he adds.
- Who Cares? Imitating Pixar Isn't a Bad Thing contends The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy of the film's "mild whiffs" of Pixar's The Incredibles. "Almost in the manner of an old farce, Megamind is loaded with role reversals, of main characters suddenly switching personalities or being revealed as having been someone else in disguise," McCarthy writes. "Megamind arrives at a time when the whole superhero genre is beginning to feel a bit tapped out, but the fun McGrath and his clever writers Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons take in their dextrous plotting is sufficiently contagious to overcome the familiarity."