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What happens when a supervillain loses his superhero? The peculiar mutual dependence of the comic book protagonist/antagonist relationship, and the strange emptiness that arises upon its dissolution, forms the basis of Dreamworks' Megamind, an exuberant new animated comedy from director Tom McGrath (The Madagascar films) and writers Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons.

Funnyman Will Ferrell lends his voice to the title character, a blue-skinned, green-eyed alien whose mammoth, hairless cranium has, over the course of his career as a supervillain, given life to an endless array of exotic inventions and elaborate schemes, all in the service of his lifelong dream of conquering his adopted hometown of Metro City. Despite his creativity and obvious intelligence, he's been continually thwarted in his efforts by the city's champion, Metro Man (Brad Pitt), a preening show-off whose otherworldly physical gifts seem destined to forever trump Megamind's cerebral ones.

Accustomed as he is to defeat, Megamind is as surprised as anyone when he learns that his latest attempt at vanquishing his arch-rival has met with success. At a press conference convened to celebrate his newfound dominion over Metro City, he is utterly flummoxed when the town's ace reporter, Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey), presses him to reveal what sinister plans he has in store for the panicked populace. So focused was Megamind on his rivalry with Metro Man that he hadn't bothered to ponder what he'd do in the unlikely event that he won.

Together with his sidekick, a fish-headed cyborg named Minion (David Cross), Megamind rampages unhindered through Metro City, terrorizing its citizenry and amassing untold riches. But these pursuits don't yield nearly the joy he'd anticipated they would, and, having belatedly discovered that the evil journey is more important than the evil destination, he begins pining for his old nemesis, Metro Man.

I found myself missing him as well. From Dr. Evil to Despicable Me, humanizing supervillains for comedic effect has been an exceedingly popular pastime in Hollywood in recent years. Less common is the examination of insufferably pompous "heroes" like Metro Man, whose massive egos and diva antics are made tolerable only by their immense contributions to society. (Think Steve Jobs, or Eliot Spitzer, or Bono ...) Megamind opts to take the road more traveled, and at times its story can't help but feel like a bit of a re-hash, despite how artfully rendered it is.

What it lacks in inventiveness, Megamind makes up in wit, intelligence, and customarily gorgeous animation. After a truly dazzling opening act, it wanders through a mid-point malaise before gradually gaining momentum as Megamind, recognizing how hollow and meaningless his existence is without a worthy adversary with which to spar, decides to literally manufacture one. But he is appalled to find that his new creation, Titan (Jonah Hill), is far more interested in playing video games and acquiring shiny new toys than re-igniting the age-old battle between good and evil. When Titan's increasing nihilism imperils Metro City, it's Megamind who emerges to defend it, completing his unlikely journey from villain to hero to, finally, superhero. rated this film 3 1/2 stars.