Superhero Movie (2008) / Comedy-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, comic violence, drug references and language
Running Time: 85 min.
Cast: Drake Bell, Sara Paxton, Christopher McDonald, Leslie Nielsen, Kevin Hart, Marion Ross, Ryan Hansen, Keith David, Brent Spiner, Robert Joy, Jeffrey Tambor, Robert Hays, Tracy Morgan, Regina Hall, Craig Bierko, Dan Castellaneta, Pamela Anderson, Charlene Tilton
Director: Craig Mazin
Screenplay: Craig Mazin
In what should now be called a disease plaguing comic cinema today, another genre knock-off is released hoping to capitalize on the fruits of someone else's conceptual labor. Superhero Movie aims to be a spoof on, you guessed it, the superhero films that have been blockbusters for the last several years. You wouldn't know it from the way the film plays out, as it is a satire on the first Spider-Man film about 90% of the time, and a terrible one at that. The couple of digs at other movies includes lame attempts at skewering X-Men, Fantastic Four and Batman Begins, but those gags are so forgettable one can almost see the producers check the box of superhero films to include in advertisements.
Drake Bell (Yours Mine & Ours, "Drake & Josh") gets the starring nod as the Peter Parker-ish Rick Riker, a nerdy high schooler whose every non-study moment is filled with his infatuation for school beauty (and girl next door) Jill Johnson (Paxton, Sleepover). She kinda has a soft spot for him too, though they can't quite get it all worked out, especially as Riker is soundly trashed at every opportunity by school bully (and Jill's main squeeze) Lance Landers (Hansen, "Veronica Mars"). While on a school field trip, Riker is bitten by a DNA-changing dragonfly, giving him superhuman powers. As this goes on, Lance's dying megabucks uncle Lou (McDonald, American Pie Beta House) is conducting science experiments that will help prolong his life, and he's successful, but the side-effects turn him into a life-draining villain called Hourglass, who must suck the life from others so that he can continue on. It's up to Riker as the Dragonfly to take him down.
Anyone who has seen the atrocious Epic Movie and Date Movie shouldn't be expecting much from this mini-genre, though not by the same idiots, that only has enough moments of good humor to put together a semi-interesting trailer. However, given that writer-director Craig Mazin has already directed a superhero spoof, a pretty fun independent effort called The Specials, it's hard not to be disappointed at how far off the mark Superhero Movie errs at aiming for the funny bone. Then again he didn't write that one, but he did co-write the lackluster superpower spoof, Senseless, followed by contributing on Scary Movie 3 and 4. Mazin proves, if anything, that his future in comedy may reside more as a director as long as he doesn't get anywhere near the word processor.
Once upon a time, these screwball spoofs were cutting edge, back in the days of Airplane!, Top Secret! and The Naked Gun. One needn't look any further than the obligatory inclusion of Leslie Nielsen (Men with Brooms, Dracula: Dead and Loving It), who looks about as dog-tired as this film plays, and who hasn't been in a good one of these flicks in over a decade despite doing practically nothing but. Looks like no matter how far removed he is from Airplane!, he still manages to find his vehicle driven by Otto Pilot (and Robert Hays is cast to boot, though the film never capitalizes). Pamela Anderson (Borat, Barb Wire), whose career has degenerated (appropriately, if you ask me) to the crass comedy bimbo cameo throne, also gets a guest nod, though you may not notice if you blink, or more likely, if you're nodding off.
The gags barely merit mentioning, and to be honest, it's hard for me to remember most of them. As I'm looking at the picture in the review above, I recall it being a take-off on the same scene in Spider-Man where a drop of a wounded Spider-Man's blood drips down to alert a suspicious Norman Osborn that he's not alone in the room. In this "comedy", Dragonfly has randomly appeared drinking a super-duper Big Gulp-sized soft drink and can't hold in his urine. I guess this is as indicative as any of the level of humor you can expect.
Seeing Spider-Man get re-done with sexual innuendo, tasteless disability digs, interminable flatulence, a barrage of internet-age references just to seem topical, celebrity lookalikes who barely are given a punch line, and groan-inducing slapstick just aren't enough to cut it these days. Given that superhero satires pre-date even these screwball spoofs, Superhero Movie resembles its arch villain: near death and pathetic, having to suck the life juice out of anything and everything it can to maintain just enough heartbeat before ultimately expiring to many sighs of relief.
©2008 Vince Leo