Is it nature or nurture that decides the kind of person we are?  There are perfectly valid arguments on both sides of the debate and no one really knows for sure.  There is statistical evidence that people who are physically and emotionally abused as children are as adults more likely to be abusive to their children.  Of course, there are people who never experienced any kind of abuse in their formative years who are cruel and evil people as adults.  The question remains:  Is it how you are treated or your brain chemistry that decides your course in life?  And perhaps the most important question:  Are we able to rise above either or both to make ourselves better?  That lies at the heart of this week’s movie, “Megamind.”

Sent to Earth as babies because their respective planets were being destroyed by the same black hole, Megamind (Will Ferrell) and Metro Man (Brad Pitt) had very different upbringings.  The very human looking Metro Man had a typical, nuclear family while the blue skin and voluminous cranium of Megamind was raised in the Metro City Prison.  Naturally, their experiences prepared them to take different paths in adulthood with Metro Man using his alien super powers to be Metro City’s protector, while Megamind, with the help of his fish-like sidekick Minion (David Cross), applied his enormous intellect to being a super villain and Metro Man’s arch nemesis.  Despite years of trying and evil plots and inventions by the score, Megamind was never able to defeat his foe; until one fateful day when, for the umpteenth time, he kidnaps TV reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey) to lure Metro Man into a trap.  To everyone’s surprise, this time it actually worked and Megamind used a death ray to wipe Metro Man off the face of the planet, leaving Megamind to run roughshod over the city with no one to stop him.  Soon, Megamind feels bored without a challenger and, using DNA from Metro Man’s cape, distills all of the departed superhero’s powers into a pellet that he plans on injecting into a Metro City resident he considers a worthy opponent.  The pellet accidentally goes up the nose of Roxanne Ritchi’s cameraman Hal (Jonah Hill) who has always had a crush on her.  Emboldened by his new abilities, Hal, now calling himself Titan, tells Roxanne how he feels but she rejects him.  Angered, Titan begins destroying Metro City, becoming a greater threat to its citizens than Megamind ever could be.  Now Megamind must figure out a way to defeat his creation, forcing the evil genius to become what he loathes the most—a hero.

“Megamind” has an excellent premise and a fantastic voice cast.  There are some very funny people providing the voices in the movie, along with mega-star Brad Pitt to give the production some Hollywood glamour.  All this talent is unfortunately let down by a script that is not as funny, exciting and interesting as it should be.  Animated films are naturally aimed at children and thus, should be geared to the way a child’s mind works.  As anyone who has children or spent any time with kids knows, they usually have the attention span of a gnat.  They flit from playing a game to pretending to be a doctor, cowboy and spaceman in the blink of an eye.  Films where children are the target audience have to compete with this chaotic mindset and “Megamind” doesn’t fare well in that regard.  In the showing I attended, there were a great number of younger children who had no idea there was a movie on the screen.  The movie needs more manic energy to keep the little ones focused on the screen.  “Megamind” could take a page from the old Warner Brothers cartoons of the 1940’s and 1950’s and use more pratfalls and sight gags to ratchet up the momentum.

Along with this, the story has far too many dead spots that bring all the action to a standstill.  Part of the plot involves Megamind disguised as a minor character that spends a great deal of time with Roxanne and he begins to fall in love with her.  This appears to be an attempt to broaden the story’s interest out to the parents who are watching the movie with their kids.  It’s a bad idea.  These interludes bring the movie to a dead stop and only make the audience wish for something to laugh at.  The herky-jerky nature of the plot kills any momentum the story develops.  Give us less chit-chat and more slam-bang.  That’s what superhero movies are supposed to be about (even if the focus of this film is the villain).

The movie also has too little humor.  While there are some decent laughs, “Megamind” doesn’t give us enough chuckles.  One of the running gags through the film is how Megamind mispronounces simple words; such as saying “shool” instead of “school” and “metrosity” instead of “Metro City.”  It’s not that funny to start with and it doesn’t get any funnier the 50th time around.  Ferrell, Fey and Cross are some very funny people who have a great deal of improvisation experience and should have been able to come up with some real gut busters for the film.  Perhaps what they came up with was too adult for a kid’s film or maybe they just didn’t have the time to play around in the recording booth.  Whatever the reason, “Megamind” needs a shot of some funny to really make the film attractive to both children and adults.

“Megamind” is rated PG for action and some language.  There are the usual superhero fights involving giant robots and the like.  Roxanne is trapped on top of a skyscraper that begins to collapse.  There is also some slapstick violence that is brief and used for laughs.  The worst language is the word “butt.”

While the film has some interesting visuals and a fair amount of humor, “Megamind” comes up short in energy, laughs and entertainment in general.  The studio that gave us “Shrek” should know better than to put out a film that is at times so lethargic and dull.  They need to try harder otherwise Disney/Pixar will always beat them out for the animated feature Academy Award.

“Megamind” gets three guitars out of five.

Sci-fi action, true story-based action and a rom-com are on tap this week at a theatre near you.  Vote for the next film I see and review.

Morning Glory—Rachel McAdams is a hard-working TV producer who stumbles into a job trying to revitalize the last-place national morning news show.

Skyline—Strange lights herald an extraterrestrial force that threatens to swallow the entire human population off the face of the Earth.

Unstoppable—Denzel Washington and Chris Pine must stop a runaway train carrying enough chemicals to wipe out a nearby city.

Stan's Choice--Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently in theatres.

Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.

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