"Megamind" is a genial animated sendup of superhero flicks that should appeal to kids around the age when they're getting a bit cynical about do-gooders in capes and tights.

The film centers on the rivalry between a skinny, self-proclaimed evil genius with a globular head (Will Ferrell) and brawny, square-jawed demigod Metro Man (Brad Pitt). Rivals since their birth in a galaxy far away, they have been competing for attention for decades, Metro Man by being perfect, Megamind by acting out. He's not really nefarious, you see, he's just misunderstood. In other circumstances he might have been a good guy; he's literally bumped off in a different path.

Jealous of Metro Man's popularity with Metro City's citizens -- and with TV reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey) -- he tries to eradicate the goody-goody with doomsday machines that always backfire, Wile E. Coyote-style. Then, to his amazement, he succeeds. And he doesn't know what to do with himself. And he misses the good guy. And his life changes.

The story takes a while to find its way after Metro Man's departure, but it compensates by moving off in interesting new directions. Without getting too deep into spoiler territory, let's note that Roxanne is also the name of the heroine of "Cyrano de Bergerac," another tale of a smart, odd-looking neurotic with a hidden romantic nature and a flair for wacky disguises. Roxanne seems to stir up romantic passions in every man she meets, including her overeager cameraman (Jonah Hill), a Jimmy Olson type who goes through some dramatic changes of his own.

The look of the film is fine, with cleverly designed retro skyscrapers and super-vehicles. It's the nicely worked-out plot that surprises, though. Story is usually the weak link in DreamWorks films, where pop-culture gags and musical numbers typically carry the day. This time there's a structure, big reversals and a strong finale. For fans of the Richard Donner "Superman" movies, there's even a hammy Brando-inflected turn by Ferrell as Metro Man's white-haired Space Dad. "Megamind" won't revolutionize the genre, but it gives it a goose.

Colin Covert • 612-673-7186