For the past year or so, several studios have been making it a habit of not screening their movies for critics. The Weinstein Company has been one of these studios (with the exception of award-bait movies like The Great Debaters). Likewise, the routine spoof movies (e.g., Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans) have been kept as far away from critics as possible.
So, when I saw Superhero Movie on the release slate, and I noticed its absence from any press screening list, I fully expected it to be an absolute pile of crap.
But then something strange happened when I paid my $5 matinee price and went to go see it on a Friday afternoon… I actually found it funny.
Unlike those dreaded “2 of the 6 writers of Scary Movie,” the man behind Superhero Movie actually understands how the spoof genre works. Instead of making a hodge-podge of pop culture references with a string of jokes relying on randomness and short attention spans, writer/director Craig Mazin puts together a sophomoric yet hilarious send-up of the recent superhero movies we’ve seen over the past ten years.
Borrowing heavily from Spider-Man, Superhero Movie follows The Dragonfly, a superhero who has emerged from a high school nerd. After being bitten by a genetically altered dragonfly, Rick Riker (Drake Bell) develops super powers, which he must use to combat the villainous Hourglass (Christopher McDonald).
Keep in mind that Superhero Movie is still a modern spoof, but it’s much more on the lines of the last two Scary Movie installments rather than the wretched The Comebacks or Epic Movie. It doesn’t reach the pinnacle of spoofs like the classic Mel Brooks comedies of the 70s or the Airplane and Naked Gun films. However, it did make me laugh… a lot.
What makes the movie work is the fast-hitting nature and delivery of the jokes. Where crap storms like Meet the Spartans spell out the jokes for your and telegraph them so much that you have to be brain damaged to not see them coming, Superhero Movie throws them at you fast, then gets out of the way.
In this respect, when the jokes fall flat, the film isn’t belaboring it but rather moving ahead to the next joke (which is hopefully funnier). Contrary to popular belief, it does take a level of talent to tell puke and fart jokes well, and that seems to be one of Craig Mazin’s talent, for whatever it’s worth.
Another strength of the film is its cast. Nickelodeon’s Drake Bell is affable and charismatic on screen, but he also plays the dork very well. Likewise, the strikingly hot Sara Paxton is a nice love interest foil for him and manages to be easier on the eyes than Kirsten Dunst, whose Spider-Man character of Mary Jane she is sending up.
Finally, a supporting cast that includes comedy stalwarts like Christopher McDonald, Jeffrey Tambor and Leslie Nielsen are given a chance to shine in their roles. Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker alums like Regina Hall, Simon Rex and Robert Hayes also make nice cameos. Even Tracy Morgan, whom I normally detest, is pretty funny in his role as the adulterous Professor Xavier. Oh, and the guy they got to spoof the Scientology-hawking Tom Cruise is hysterical.
In a month that is touch-and-go, Superhero Movie is my March madness guilty pleasure. The bottom line is that any PG-13 film that can make Stephen Hawking a comedic genius, make references to “2 Girls, 1 Cup” and have a song in its soundtrack entitled “Douchebag of the Year” is okay in my book.
The Upside: Literally one of the best spoof movies in the past couple years.
The Downside: Wasn’t screened for press, which is giving it an Epic Movie reputation.
On the Side: Stay through part of the credits to see some pretty funny deleted scenes.