Superhero Movie (2008)

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Ranked #1,704
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The team behind Scary Movie takes on the comic book genre in this tale of Rick Riker, a nerdy teen imbued with superpowers by a radioactive dragonfly. And because every hero needs a nemesis, enter Lou Landers, aka the villainously goofy Hourglass. --TMDb
Review by bluemeanie
Added: March 31, 2008
What in the hell has happened to the spoof genre? When was the last time you can remember seeing a really good spoof - something on the lines of "Airplane!" or "Hot Shots!"? "Walk Hard" was the last memorable one I saw, and I really don't consider that a 'spoof' in the traditional sense of the word, but I might have to start considering it as such if I don't want to lose total faith in the genre that I love so dearly. Films like "Epic Movie" and "Meet the Spartans" are what is passing for a spoof these days, which is sad because they are about as much like a traditional spoof as "Operation Dumbo Drop" is a traditional period drama. Films like "Meet the Spartans" rely on toilet humor for all of their jokes and the rest are as lame as they come. Whatever happened to geniuses of the craft, like the Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrahams? The last Zucker Brothers spoof to hit theatres was "Scary Movie 4", which had its moments, but was also disappointing when you consider the pedigree from which it comes. "Superhero Movie" also has a bit of a pedigree in that it was only produced by David Zucker. The film was written and directed by Craig Maizin, who wrote the screenplays for "Scary Movie 3" and "Scary Movie 4". I won't say that "Superhero Movie" is as bad as "Meet the Spartans", and it does have some genuine laugh out loud moments; but, on the whole, "Superhero Movie" is a lot of promise and very poor execution.

The first rule of the spoof - select a genre to parody. "Superhero Movie" has not chosen a genre so much as a sub-genre, this one being superhero films. Our protagonist is Rick Riker (Drake Bell), a dorky high school kid who lives with his aunt and uncle (Leslie Nielsen & Marion Ross), has the hots for the hottest girl in school, Jill Johnson (Sara Paxton) and is being pursued by a scientist who is sucking the life out of people to prolong his own, Lou Landers (Christopher McDonald). After a class field trip to a research lab, Rick is bitten by a radioactive dragonfly and begins to notice he has unusual super powers, which he eventually masters and starts using for good. Memorable side characters include Brent Spiner as Dr. Strom, Tracy Morgan as Professor Xavier, Jeffrey Tambor as an E.R. doctor with a strange way of delivering bad news and Robert Hays as Rick's father. The film is filled with well-known character actors and well-known comedic actors, some turning out to be more successful than others. Some fall completely flat, like Robert Joy as Stephen Hawking, a joke which seems both offensive, unnecessary and tasteless in the extreme. The ending of the film is all about good versus evil, Rick Riker versus Lou Landers. In many ways, the ending feels like an actual ending rather than the parody of an actual ending.

You have to trust your audience and "Superhero Movie" does not. You have to give you audience credit for being able to tell when something is funny and something is not. "Airplane!" did that and so did the best of the Zucker Brothers films. You create a joke or situation and then you hit the audience with the punchline and cause them to laugh well into the next joke or situation. What "Superhero Movie" does is create the joke and then cut to a reaction shot from one of the different characters, that way the audience knows it's supposed to be absurd or funny. It's like the film does not trust the audience to figure things out for themselves. In addition, the film seems forced. It feels as if the production was on this deadline and some of the scenes feel like they are not complete, like they are shots the cinematographer forgot to get. Oddly enough, however, the visual effects in the film are not that bad - far better than we're used to seeing in spoofs of this nature. Many of the prop gags work also, as when Professor Xavier's wife (Regina Hall) lifts up a little boy in a wheelchair. Or, as when a small snail slowly makes its way to make some 'snail business'. As mentioned before, the film has some genuine laugh out loud moments. They also manage to work a classic fart joke into the picture and not make it so disgusting that you can't stand it.

Most of the actors are nothing special here. Drake Bell would be fine in the role if the director didn't always cut to him for reaction shots, something he is not skilled at. He makes these faces that just seem awkward and wrong for the situation. Otherwise, he does a serviceable job with the role and has some really good timing. Leslie Nielsen steals the show, as he always does, because he just knows how to be funny. He really isn't given a lot of quality material here, but he makes the best out of what he is given. Marion Ross also does a fine job with her role, given a couple of the most toiletesque scenes in the picture. And, Christopher McDonald. I have always loved this guy, and he seems to be having a blast with his role here, as over-the-top and crazy as possible. I was glad to see him in another lead comedic role and hope that continues. I was wanting more screen time for Brent Spiner and Tracy Morgan - their roles just came and went, and I wanted more. But, the film was almost single handedly ruined by Robert Joy as Stephen Hawking. For starters, this is an outdated joke. Secondly, it just isn't funny. Some of the jokes involving this character are taken too far and go beyond the point of 'harmless parody' to 'downright cruel'. I don't think anyone in the audience laughed at a single joke involving this character, and rightfully so.

So, can I recommend this picture? Sadly, I cannot. "Superhero Movie" doesn't live up to the promise that having a Zucker brother as a producer would insinuate. It also doesn't seem to have a clear idea of what it wants to do. It seems thrown together, chopped up and spat out just in time to make some money for the studio. I will, however, recommend Leslie Nielsen's performance in the picture - it's always a joy to see him doing what he does best. On the whole, I probably would have enjoyed the film far better if the Stephen Hawking character had been removed. It's rare when one character can ruin a film for me, but it happened here. It just seemed so unnecessary. But, despite all of my problems with the film, it's still leaps and bounds better than crap like "Epic Movie" and "Meet the Spartans". It doesn't rely on toilet humor alone to elicit laughs. You can always count on a film like this to let the words find the humor more so than the sight gags. "Superhero Movie" was disappointing, but with some humorous moments.

BuryMeAlive #1: BuryMeAlive - added 03/31/2008, 09:12 PM
I really didn't want to go and see this one, but now knowing that there is a Stephen Hawking joke in it, I just might... Man, I hate Stephen Hawking.
bluemeanie #2: bluemeanie - added 04/01/2008, 10:13 AM
Hating Stephen Hawking is one thing, but the joke was outdated and too cruel for a film like this.
Mr. Mistoffelees #3: Mr. Mistoffelees - added 04/21/2008, 04:48 PM
Man I'm surprised it's not as bad as Meet the Spartans. I really wish these movies would stop being made but until teenagers and idiots stop watching them they'll never leave.
Chad #4: Chad - added 07/13/2008, 11:52 PM
Shit, shit, shit... call me cruel, but I thought the whole Stephen Hawking thing was hilarious. 6.5/10.
Lucid Dreams #5: Lucid Dreams - added 08/20/2010, 06:35 PM
Boring 4/10
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