April 3, 2008

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Superhero Movie (PG-13)
The Scary Movie machine churns out yet another parody of yet another genre with Superhero Movie, a thankfully brief movie skewering mostly Spider-Man.

Rick Riker (Drake Bell) is a nerd who gets superpowers (though not the ability to fly) when bitten by a dragonfly, thus becoming “The Dragonfly.” He has a supportive family in Aunt Lucille (Marion Ross) and Uncle Albert (Leslie Nielsen), a good friend in Trey (Kevin Hart), a love interest in Jill Johnson (Sara Paxton) and a romantic rival in Lance Landers (Ryan Hansen). Lance’s dad, the terminally ill Lou Landers (Christopher McDonald) serves as the experiment-created villain — using the name “The Hourglass” — and Tracy Morgan shows up for a few scenes to work in a little X-Men tomfoolery.

As unfunny as the nearly-Kirsten-Dunst-as-MJ and the almost-Aunt-May are, Leslie Nielsen wins this movie’s least-funny award. His doofus-cop character from the Naked Gun movies has been edited down to merely “doofus” here.

The Landerses are the best part of the movie. Ryan Hansen gives Lance a bored jock persona not too different from his delightfully jerk-ish Dick Casablancas of Veronica Mars. And the Lou Landers character comes the closest to what you’d want a genre parody to do — he gives us both a decent Batman TV show-style villain (The Hourglass soaks the life out of people to prolong Lou’s life; killing some multiple thousands of people could win him immortality) and a spoof on that kind of villain. It’s the kind of dual-purpose line you have to walk in a parody — the kind of thing that a movie like Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story did very well and a movie like the odious Meet the Spartans didn’t do at all.

With the exception of the Landers characters, Superhero Movie leans too hard on that Meet the Spartans-style “comedy.” The humor here isn’t even really humor; it’s replication of the look of the movies it’s riffing on. It’s the difference between telling a joke, even a knock-knock joke, and just saying “remember in Spider-Man when Peter acted dorky?” Yes, we remember and we don’t need the help of this disposable movie to do so. C-

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, comic violence, drug reference and language. Written and directed by Craig Mazin, Superhero Movie is just barely an hour and 25 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by MGM Distribution Company.