Now here’s the thing. In spite of my utter adoration of Leslie Nielsen, particularly his single-handed dedication to keeping the spoof genre going over the past 20 years or so, I skipped Superhero Movie at the cinema. The title didn’t help (heck, I even sat through Date Movie, to which it’s unrelated but sounds similar), but also there was a feeling after sitting through Spy Hard, Wrongfully Accused and Scary Movie 4 that the great man didn’t have another good spoof movie in him. Follow that assumption up with the series of one-star reviews (“worst comedy ever” I’ve read on more than one occasion) that the film got at the flicks, and is currently getting on DVD, and my hopes weren’t high.
But crikey, am I glad I eventually gave the disc a spin. For while Superhero Movie is no masterpiece, I did find myself chuckling along quite frequently, and even treated myself to one or two solid guffaws. Throw in the cameo appearance from Robert Hays, a running time that came nowhere near close to outstaying its welcome and a few added chuckles over the end credits, and it all proved to be a welcome surprise.
The main plot tries to spoof an assortment of films, but it uses Spider-man as its core. Drake Bell plays Rick Riker, a happily homogenous high school student, who gets picked on by the big boys. Blatanly fawning over the love of his life, Sara Paxton’s Jill Johnson, he finds himself bitten by a radioactive dragonfly. It’s then not long until he becomes a superhero, The Dragonfly, who has to fight off the nasty Christopher McDonald as The Hourglass.
This is all hokum, of course, laying a very basic foundation throughout which to throw lots of gags at the superhero genre. And writer-director Craig Mazin has a better-than-expected hit rate. His X-men, Fantastic Four and Batman spoofs are a little obvious and less successful, but he wisely gives Nielsen some fun dialogue to practice his straight-laced delivery on, and calls in Brent Spiner for welcome cameo. The Stephen Hawking gags perhaps drag Superhero Movie a little too close to the edge of taste at times (although we did laugh hard at the predictable-but-funny Tom Cruise skit), but with some decent special effects and a pacey script, the film pretty much delivers. It’s no Airplane! or Naked Gun, and nor does it ever threaten to be. But a one-star movie it ain’t.
The extras on the disc aren’t hugely generous, but they’re functional enough. The actors introduce themselves and their characters, there’s a decent alternative ending, some deleted scenes and an art of spoofing featurette that’s worth a quick spin. There’s no commentary incidentally, which is a pity, as there’s most definitely one to be found on the region one version (that we’re reviewing shortly).
But still, while Superhero Movie is far from a comedy classic, it’s worth taking a punt on. How, in some cases, it managed worse reviews than something like Meet The Spartans remains a cause for some puzzlement.
The Movie:The Disc: