If Judge Christopher Kulik became a superhero, he would name himself Verdictman, only because Orgazmo was already taken.
With great power comes hot bitches!
The price we paid for Scary Movie keeps getting higher.
Facts of the Case
High school runt Rick Riker (Drake Bell, Drake & Josh) is hopelessly in love with popular beauty Jill Johnson (Sara Paxton, Aquamarine). As luck/fate would have it, he gets bitten by a genetically-altered dragonfly while on a school field trip. It isn't until he starts breakdancing on a brick wall when he realizes he has superpowers! However, becoming a savior for Empire City is no small task, especially since he must deal with an insane scientist Lou Landers (Christopher McDonald, Happy Gilmore). After an experiment goes awry, Landers morphs into the Hourglass, a super-villain who must suck the life out of bystanders in order to survive. Can Rick stop this madman even while falling in love with Jill?
I can only imagine my fellow judges' reactions to Superhero Movie when it became available to review…
Judge David Johnson: "Oh no! Not another spoof in the Date Movie: Unrated Edition vein! Damn it, Dan, you take it, you take it!!!"
Judge Dan Mancini: "No way! I already had my cinematic castration last year when I reviewed Epic Movie (Unrated Edition). I'm sure Tom would be up for the challenge…"
Appellate Judge Tom Becker: "Oh, hell no! After enduring 86 minutes of homophobic hell and penguin testicle-licking in Meet The Spartans: Pit Of Death Edition, I'd rather have a dog fart in my face than review Superhero Movie. Let Clark worry about it!"
Judge Clark Douglas: "Well, thanks a lot! I had to deal with the same shit you endured, except it was blu. Whoever gets Superhero Movie, I feel so sorry for them!"
Just to let my fellow judges know, I chose Superhero Movie for you! I agree watching Date, Epic, and Spartans made one feel like they had a mouth full of cavities, cold sores, and manchowder. Seriously, they actually made the string of Pauly Shore comedies from the '90s look good. So, naturally I had exceedingly low expectations for Superhero Movie. When I plopped it my DVD player, I stopped short of pressing play. For a moment, I contemplated my ill-fated decision. Still, I reminded myself I was doing this for my fellow judges and thought, "With great power comes great responsibility." I boldly hit play, watched the Dimension logo slither across the screen, and was ready for the torture.
Then a funny thing happened. When the movie was over, I didn't hate it. Sure, it had an endless amount of unfunny jokes; the acting was mostly embarrassing; the writing reeked of desperation; and, yes, there was no shortage of disgusting toilet humor. Yet, it wasn't the mind-blowing, moronic monstrosity of its predecessors. Don't believe me? Ask Judge Bill Gibron.
Still, bad is bad, and Superhero Movie fails for two key reasons: 1) For a spoof, it's not that funny, and 2) it depends too much on remaking the template it's trashing. Arguably, Spider-Man is too easy a target, rendering many of the jokes as tired and lame. The spoofing of alternate superhero mythology works slightly better, as writer/director Craig Mazin is able to poke fun at Batman, X-Men, and Fantastic Four. Somehow, he's even able to work in a comical homage to The Girl Next Door. The problem is none of these jabs are even remotely funny, relying on reference rather than reverence.
What's most annoying are the modern technology gags. There are endless swipes at iPods, Google, MySpace, Craigslist, Wikipedia, Vista software; hell, there's even a joke about Enron, something which its target audience (kids with very low IQs) won't understand. Plus, Mazin has the gall to craft an entire subplot in which Stephen Hawking is depicted as a profane, perverted pedophile that listens to Celine Dion and gets off on looking at high school girls' butts. I know what you're thinking: How could the filmmakers stoop any lower?
The worst offender is its toilet humor. When executed right, farting can be funny. Trey Parker and Matt Stone proved it so in Orgazmo by having farts under 5 db, and not as loud as a tuba. In Superhero Movie, we are subjected to a scene in which Rick's aunt (Marion Ross, Happy Days), farts endlessly while he is confessing his love to Sara. We get fart one and two, with the couple being creeped out, but not enough to leave the room. The third time Ross farts it causes Sara's hair to fly up as if she was hit by a breeze…and that's only a fraction of the sequence!
There was so much talent brought onboard here, it's mind boggling how much is wasted. Leslie Nielson, the one time ultimate spoof-machine, is now reduced to employing necrophilia to garner laughs. He and Ross are certainly game, but the script doesn't allow them to be even remotely amusing. Jeffrey Tambor is a talented guy, and he has isolated moments as a wacked-out doctor. The likable Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation) has the energy of an android without a voice or emotion chip. Even spoof veterans Robert Hayes (Airplane), Regina Hall (Scary Movie), and Pamela Anderson (Stolen Honeymoon) are hung out to dry with brainless, mind-numbing one-liners.
Oddly enough, the most disappointing addition is Christopher McDonald. I've liked him in everything from a gay fencer in Outrageous Fortune to an egotistical golfer in Happy Gilmore. McDonald certainly shines on occasion, but appears uncomfortably restricted as this one-note villain with a ridiculous costume. Some of his scenes with Spiner are admittedly funny…otherwise, he too is undone by this mishmash of a script.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
To give the filmmakers credit, they really went to respectable lengths to make this different from Date, Epic and Spartans. The saving grace: Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, who made all that garbage, were in no way involved here. Instead, we have Craig Mazin, who previously wrote Senseless and Rocket Man, before hooking up with producer David Zucker to write the third and fourth entries in the Scary Movie franchise. When he is not set on grossing out his audience, he actually delivers some laughs, particularly when they involve pop culture. My favorite bit is a slam against Tom Cruise and his control freak attitude, when it comes to spouting on Scientology. Amazingly, Mazin was even able to find an uncanny look-alike (Miles Fisher, Gods And Generals), who's an absolute scream.
The real reason Mazin succeeds is that he understands the rules of comedy, and one of them is capturing effective character reactions. On the audio commentary, he refers to star Drake Bell as the "master of reaction." I must agree. Bell is the best thing in the movie and, yes, many of his facial reactions are priceless. He and Sara Paxton are so gosh-darn likable they almost make Superhero Movie worth watching. Even when surrounded by unfunny sight gags, they are funny because of their honest behavior. Both are talented singers too, and contributed songs to the end credits.
Dimension cooks up a stellar DVD package. The picture is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and the colors are perfectly saturated, with no anomalies present. Audio is provided in a 5.1 Surround track, giving extra boost to the music and songs. Extras begin with a very entertaining audio commentary by writer/director Craig Mazin and co-producers Robert K. Weiss and David Zucker. Both sit back and crack jokes about the whole thing, and Mazin has some interesting stories to share. My favorite is his purchasing an actual Stephen Hawking voice device on eBay. He paid $600, and evidently took some time learning how to use it.
Touted as an "Unrated Extended Edition," very little seems to have been added from the theatrical cut. Evidently, the MPAA objected to the use of the word "pubes" (now that's funny!), even when it's been used in many PG-13 films. Additional bonus features include an alternate ending, deleted scenes, a trailer, and two featurettes: "Meet the Cast" and "The Art of Spoofing." The alternate ending is quite identical, and the deleted scenes have a lot of gags which just don't work. There is one exception: Fisher doing his Cruise riffs. The featurettes do their job, even when they are heavy on promotion and weak on information. It's also rather tasteless when one suggests Superhero Movie is an example of brilliant spoofing and satire. This is no Airplane!, trust me.
Am I being too kind with Superhero Movie? Perhaps. It's better than its pre-conceived reputation would imply, even if that's not saying much. If it wasn't for Bell, Paxton, and Fisher, I would have spit on this film incessantly. If you must watch, I highly recommend you wait until it comes on TV.
Guilty of being a sloppy and stupid spoof. However, the leads and Genius Products are acquitted for working overtime. Court is adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
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