Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Superhero Movie

Review by Patrick Hodges

Just under twenty years ago, I shared an apartment with a guy named Larry Brazzill.  I mention his name because I would not be the film-buff that I am today if not for him, for it was he that got me interested in some of the classics.  One of his favorite genres was the spoof film, and among his favorites were Blazing Saddles and Airplane!  Sadly, Larry passed away, way too early, about eight years ago, but I still can’t watch a good spoof film without thinking of him.

I think it is reprehensible what has been done to this genre in the last few years, thanks mainly to two untalented hacks named Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer.  If those names are not familiar to you, they are the driving force behind some of the worst films to hit theaters in the last few years, films that have the stones to call themselves “spoofs”.  If you’ve had the misfortune to see Date Movie, Epic Movie or Meet the Spartans, you’ll know what I mean.

Admit it… a lot of you passed on Superhero Movie because you thought that it was just another product from the same unfunny spoof machine, wherein they would simply take the characters from every superhero film ever, whack them in the nuts, and move on to the next plot-thread, culminating in eighty minutes of completely unwatchable tripe.  Let me tell you flat-out:  it’s not. 

Superhero Movie is directed by former Disney exec Craig Mazin, and was co-produced by the legendary David Zucker, who (along with his partner Jim Abrahams) was the creative genius behind some of the funniest films ever, including the Airplane films, the Hot Shots! films, the first two Naked Gun films, and others.  They knew then, and now, what a spoof is, and should be:   taking a familiar character, tweaking it just a little, and ridiculing it in a playful or satirical manner.  And in Superhero Movie, they succeeded.

I won’t go into the plot much, because if you’ve seen Spider-Man, you’ll be able to follow it quite easily.  The stories aren’t an exact parallel, but it’s close enough, and it follows it from beginning to end.  There are occasional forays into the territories and characters from other comic-book films, such as X-Men, Fantastic Four, Superman and, in one hilarious flashback scene with Airplane’s Robert Hays himself, Batman Begins.  However, these sojourns are brief, and the story never loses its focus.

Though the film stars Drake and Josh star Drake Bell as the main character Rick Riker (a clumsy teenage boy who gets bitten by a radioactive dragonfly, only to be imbued with its abilities), the film belongs, as expected, to the Arnold Palmer of spoof films, Leslie Nielsen, who steps into the “Uncle Ben” character alongside Marion Ross (“Hey!  Mrs. C!”)  Happy Gilmore’s Chris McDonald plays the film’s requisite super-villain.

Is Superhero Movie the best spoof ever?  Not hardly; there was a bit too much reliance on flatulence and toilet humor, and it became tiresome after a while.  Does it stand up to some of the classics of David Zucker and Mel Brooks?  Not quite.  But it is certainly the funniest pure spoof movie to come out in the last decade, and it completely puts to shame anything Friedberg and Seltzer have ever done, or ever will do.  Disaster Movie?  Never was a film more aptly titled.

This review is dedicated to Larry Brazzill, as well as Cleavon Little, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, Peter Boyle, Richard Crenna, Lloyd Bridges, Stephen Stucker, and any other now-departed comic legend who made this genre one of the best in the business.

4 / 5 stars

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