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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Superhero Movie

Title: Superhero Movie

Year of Release: 2008

Date Viewed: July 23rd, 2010

MPAA Rating: PG-13

It appears that the universal attitude regarding the parody genre is that it is dead. I would argue that it is actually trapped in a coma. A victim of numerous stabbings by perpetrators Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer; two hack screenwriters who think that simply referencing a movie is funny. Apparently nobody ever told these clowns that a comedy needs to have....believe it or not.....jokes or gags for it to be funny. As a result, audiences have been dealt four different sad excuses for parodies ranging from barely watchable (Epic Movie) to flat out pathetic (Meet The Spartans). Thanks to these guys, today's audiences have pretty much lost all faith in ever seeing a classic spoof like Airplane ever again.

But wait! All hope is not lost! Here comes Superhero Movie to save the day! With writer/director Craig Mazin at the helm along with veteran spoof master David Zucker serving as producer, this movie kicks all of the Friedberg/Seltzer projects to the curb. It marks a triumphant return to the days where Hollywood's biggest blockbusters were lampooned in front of our very eyes and we loved every second of it.

Okay, maybe I'm being a little overdramatic with this. The film isn't THAT great. However, parody fans still owe it to themselves to see it because Hollywood needs to receive the message that we demand quality in our beloved genre. Superhero Movie can be described just like watching our favorite action heroes battle their villains. Some hits. Some misses. A cheesy moral. And of course an epic finish.

In this story, we meet lovable loser Rick Riker (Drake Bell.) He can never seem to do anything right. As a young child, Rick inadvertently kills his parents (in a scene featuring the triumphant return of Robert Hays to the parody genre) while trying to defend them from a mugger. His inheritance is wasted after he sold all of his family's Google shares and invested the money in Enron. He lives with his crazy Uncle Albert (Leslie Nielsen) and Aunt Lucielle (Marion Ross) who never seem to connect with him. Worst of all, he is bullied at school and constantly humiliated in front of his childhood crush Jill Johnson (Sara Paxton).

His fate is soon realized after getting bitten by a radioactive dragonfly during a class field trip. He begins to develop new superhuman strengths and can even climb up walls with ease. The transformation comes not a moment too soon as evil scientist Lou Landers (Christopher McDonald) creates a new device that helps him fight his terminal illness. By taking the lives of innocent victims, their vitality adds days to his life. He takes on the name Hourglass as a reference to his mission. Only a mass murder can realize his dreams of living immortal.

With the help of superhero mentor Professor Xavier (Tracy Morgan) and the wise yet insensitive wisdom of Jill, Rick (with a new alter-ego known as The Dragonfly) has to look deep within himself to find the courage to take on his new calling and save the world from the evil Hourglass.

As you've probably guessed by now, this film is essentially a reworking of 2002's Spiderman. The subplots poke fun at elements from Batman Begins and X-Men just to name a few. Parody fans should be rest assured that the idea is in good hands. David Zucker's influence is evident in nearly every scene. All the rules for success in the genre are followed. For instance, the actors play their parts straight, meaning that they are completely oblivious to the ridiculous sight gags around them. Leslie Nielsen has made a living off this sort of art for the past few decades. Drake Bell and Sara Paxton are both new to the game but appear to have been coached very well.

Another Zucker trademark is the play on words. In one scene, Landers arrives at the Riker's Thanksgiving dinner and explains that occasions like these mean a lot to him because he never had much of a family and never married. Jill holds up a fruitcake and asks "Fruitcake?" in an offering manner. Landers with his back turned replies "Nope. Just haven't met the right woman."

This use of clever comedy is balanced with cheap cliche comedy that is sometimes still funny. If sex and fart jokes are too lowbrow for you, it's best to avoid this movie because it is full of both. It may also not appeal to those that look down upon slapstick. Rick Riker is a klutz after all and the film will remind you of this fact every five minutes or so.

The biggest offender that prevents this film from becoming the classic I so desperately want it to be is the fact that Mazin and Zucker completely plagiarize themselves at times. Not only do several "Rick hurts himself" scenes recycle during the movie but the second-to-last scene is taken directly from the ending of the first Naked Gun movie. Stephen Hawking meets the same fate as O.J. Simpson's character.

Oh yes, Stephen Hawking. I forgot to mention him. A foul-mouthed version of the famous scientist appears as comic relief inside a movie that is already nothing but comic relief. Hawking's catatonic condition leads him to all sorts of bad situations such as getting stuck in a bee's nest and spilling hot coffee all over himself. Making fun of someone because of something they can't help always rubs me the wrong way. Evidently however, I hear that the real Hawking has a strong sense of humor himself and doesn't mind being parodied so perhaps I am a bit over-sensitive here. Point being though, it's not a film for the easily offended. But if you're already familiar with Zucker's track record, that shouldn't come as a surprise.

I had a really really good time watching this movie. However, in the spirit of objectivity, I can't recommend it to anyone other than longtime fans of Zucker spoofs. It's a huge step in the right direction when you compare it to the Friedberg/Seltzer junk but it doesn't have enough creativity to work for a large crowd.

Then again, these movies are not made for large crowds anyway. So who am I to complain?

Rating: 6

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