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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Superhero Movie

Watching Superhero Movie this weekend at the Essex Cinemas I found myself laughing out loud at a lot of the jokes thrown at the audience by scriptwriter and director Craig Mazin (Scary Movie 3 & 4), but immediately after, I’d bow my head in shame because I knew what I was laughing at was downright stupid 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time I laughed was because there was some woman in the audience who was clucking like a hen on a hotplate at every sight gag and answering the screen at full volume as if she was an “American Idol” judge asked to weigh in on the performance of the actors’ shtick. “Love-a-ly” she would belt out in three distinct syllables for the entire audience to savor. I don’t know what possessed me, but after the third or fourth time I found myself answering her back, like a myna bird.

“Love-a-ly!” screeched the mystery woman when the main character vomits in an aquarium. “Love-er-ly!” I cooed back. Damned if my enthusiastic willingness to cast aside my longstanding prohibition on talking during a movie wasn’t all it took to bring my usual irritating nemesis to silence. It was either that or she was struck dumb by the sheer idiocy of what we were watching.

Superhero Movie is really little more than a shameless knock-off of Spiderman retold with as many bodily fluid gags (and when I say “gag” I mean it) and riffs on previous films that the (Dear God!) ten ~ count ‘em ~ producers could get permission to legitimately skewer using the original characters’ costumes and names. For instance, the young protagonist of this story, Rick Riker (Drake Bell; “tv’s “Drake & Josh”), upon being stung by a genetically altered dragonfly, becomes the super-powered would-be hero called, obviously enough, Dragonfly, who, clad in a green rubber suit, attends Professor Xavier’s School for the (non-Asian) Gifted. There, he encounters familiar faces like the X-Men’s Wolverine (Craig Bierko; Scary Movie 4) and Storm (Marisa Lauren; tv’s "South of Nowhere"). Of course, this being what it is, in addition to the Professor himself (Tracey Morgan; tv’s “30 Rock”), we also meet Professor X’s cranky wife (Regina Hall; an alumnus of Scary Movie 1, 2, 3 and 4) and his kids, the entire family being bald and wheelchair bound, including their newborn baby, not-so-convincingly played by a rubber doll. For those who care, look for (alleged) singer Lil Kim to make a cameo as the Xaviers’ daughter. Her performance might just as well have been played by a rubber doll too, but I have a feeling a rubber doll like that would cost a whole lot more than a Betsy Wetsy, though it may have more … entertaining applications.

Dragonfly also runs into the Fantastic Four’s Invisible Girl (Pamela Anderson; Blonde and Blonder) and her brother, The Human Torch (Simon Rex; Rise), who oddly enough seems to have a fear of catching fire. Thankfully, Rick has Tom Cruise (Miles Fisher; Gods and Generals) popping in to offer advice now and again because in addition to Rick’s needing to save the world from a madman calling himself Hourglass (Christopher McDonald; Mad Money), his other main focus is on the girl of his dreams, his beautiful next door neighbor, Jill Johnson (Sara Paxton; Sydney White).

Sound familiar? You betcha, but Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson never had to cope with his elderly aunt whose flatulence is so bad it literally peels the wallpaper from the walls and blows out candles from ten feet away. Oh Marion Ross, those “Happy Days” you shared with The Fonz must have seemed like Shakespeare compared to this. I can’t imagine what you needed the money for so badly, but I hope the brain tumor or kidnapped grandchild that motivated your taking this job turned out okay. As for Robert Joy of “CSI: NY”, he’s got a weekly job on a highly rated television show and yet he still shows up in this steaming pile as a Stephen Hawking lookalike, whose sole raison d’être is to be sent sailing from his wheelchair into a circumstance of certain pain and while swearing via his electronic voice box. Okay, I’ll admit it was funny the first time, but by the third it was getting old, and that is the biggest problem with
Superhero Movie. It takes a joke and hangs on to it like a pit bull.

Ironically, some of the funniest bits (and most outrageous) were saved for those patient enough to
sit through the credits of the film. At the viewing I attended, not one other person stayed, which is their loss for being so short-sighted and for having so little endurance that they can’t even recognize the legion of people who contribute to the making of the movie. I always stay through the credits, even if it is a movie I think should have been shredded instead of released. It’s just the polite thing to do, and it occasionally pays off. In this instance, several extended scenes, deleted scenes, and bloopers are included. One, in particular, answers a very delicate question about Wolverine’s hygiene I’m sure some fanboys have speculated about for years.

As low-rent as the overall production seems because of the corny jokes and hokey script, kudos must go to Drake Bell and Sara Paxton, who breathe as much life as they can into their one dimensional caricatures. Cheers also must be extended to the production designer Bob Ziembicki (Blonde Ambition) and costumer Carol Ramsey (The City of Your Final Destination). The sets, especially Rick’s Aunt’s home, looks remarkably similar to the set from Spiderman, and the Dragonfly costume itself is stylish enough to belong to a real fictional superhero, if you know what I mean, and I know that you do. Everything about
Superhero Movie looks as top-notch as an actual Fantastic Four or Superman film. The problem is that the jokes aren’t going to take anyone up, up and away.

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