by Tony Dayoub
The proliferation of superhero movies in the last decade is evident. Just take a look at the summer movie calendar. You've got Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Wanted, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, The Dark Knight, and one from the new emerging subgenre of postmodern takes on comic book heroes, Hancock. And I can't shake the nagging doubt that I forgot one. So it should seem as no surprise that David Zucker, producer of such classic spoofs as Airplane!, The Naked Gun, and the Scary Movie series, would finally get around to spoofing this type of film. In fact, how could he let the opportunity slide, given that the superhero genre walks with a virtual bullseye on its back, begging to be spoofed. His latest comedy, Superhero Movie, debuts tomorrow on DVD.
It follows the travails of Rick Riker (Drake Bell), a high school nerd with a crush on his hot neighbor, Jill Johnson (Sara Paxton). While on a field trip, Rick gets bitten by a genetically altered dragonfly, giving him superhuman abilities and the proportional strength of... a dragonfly. As Dragonfly, he must contend with Lou Landers, the evil Hourglass (Christopher McDonald), and prevent him from a mass murder which immortalize him both figuratively and literally.
In this type of movie, when the lovely Jill says she wants to be a dancer... well, Rick spies her in her bedroom doing her morning spin around the stripper pole, er, bed post. In this type of movie, Rick's Aunt Lucille (Happy Days' venerable Marion Ross), spoofing Spider-Man's Aunt May, doles out motherly advice such as, "Shave your pubes. Nobody wants to go down on a tumbleweed." Leslie Nielsen plays Uncle Albert, and is up to his usual deadpan shenanigans. Like in Happy Gilmore, McDonald is always fun to watch as an exasperated heavy. And Kevin Hart, who plays Rick's pal Trey, steals every scene he's in, like the one where he is explaining to Rick all the different clicks on the schoolbus, "There are the jocks, the emos, the Frodos [camera pans over to some Hobbits], the Scarface Society [camera cuts to bunch of kids dressed like Tony Montana]..." There are plenty of the now traditional cameos by the likes of Pamela Anderson, Keith David, Robert Hays, Tracy Morgan, Brent Spiner, and Jeffrey Tambor.
But aside from some chuckles here and there, the movie never rises past its obvious sources of inspiration. With scenes lifted from X-Men, Batman Begins, Fantastic Four, and other films of this ilk, the movie actually doesn't stray that far from being a traditional superhero movie itself. Now, I don't know if that's a comment on this movie, or the ones it makes fun of. But what I do know is that I expect to laugh more when it comes to Zucker's films.
I hear that like its progenitors, this movie is going back to the well for a sequel. Here's hoping that one is funnier.
Stills provided courtesy of Genius Products and The Weinstein Company.