The Weinstein Company's Dimension Films did not pre-screen this movie for most of the major newspaper and broadcast TV critics. Besides a few bloggers, this is an exclusive, movie review- one you won't find anywhere else, certainly not in any other professional outlet.
SUPERHERO MOVIE comes from a long line of films that love to spoof other films, specifically films of a certain genre. The line started in the 1980s with Airplane and the Police Squad series. The same producers, Jim Abraham and David Zucker, pool their talents, and their favorite Mr. Magoo-like numbskull, Leslie Nielsen, even does a throwback.
Over the past half-decade, the Hollywood industry has seen resurgence and in fact, dominance of movies about comic book superheroes. That resurgence started in 2002 when the film Spider-Man grossed over $400 million in the domestic box office, making it the seventh largest moneymaker in Hollywood history.
Even though there have been a few films to lampoon the superhero genre, it makes sense that the Zucker brothers would target Spider-Man (2002) in their bull's eye of laughter.
This is a warning to any parents thinking about bringing their children to this feature just because it highlights Nickelodeon star Drake Bell from the kid's TV show "Drake & Josh." The movie does boast a lot of sex jokes and many actors, including the 21-year-old handsome lead, spitting out various curse words, most especially the four-letter "S" word.
But, Drake Bell does possess the sweet-faced, boy-next-door, Wally Cleaver-charm that made Tobey Maguire so loveable as Peter Parker, the aspiring college student-turned-crime fighter after being bitten by a radioactive spider.
Here, however, Bell plays the also alliteratively-named Rick Riker, who on a high school field trip is stung by a genetically engineered dragonfly, and after spilling a substance called H-2-O-9, a supercharged animal pheromone, Rick is humped by every creature in the lab from dog to snail.
After surviving the molestation by every single woodland creature, Rick returns home to find his elderly aunt and uncle commenting on all the gross picadillos that come with being an old person. In a way, that sounds to them as sexy. Trust me. It's funny in a very sick way.
From this point, Rick Riker's transformation into the Dragonfly pretty much mirrors that of Peter Parker's metamorphosis to Spider-Man. At times, it feels like a shot-by-shot remake, only with the wrong color. Instead of Spidey's traditional red, the Dragonfly's costume beams a dark green.
What the producers of this film fail to realize is that Spider-Man (2002) was actually the wrong choice as the basis of their spoof. Spider-Man, as you watched it, made fun of itself. Sam Raimi, the director of that comic book hit, saw the inherent comedy and already exploited it.
Yet, Raimi exploited the film in a classier way. When Craig Mazin, the director here, attempt to pull the same jokes but only in a raunchier way, it comes across as lame copycats.
There are some genuine sight gags and puns that will illicit giggles, but for this brief film's run, the theater will mainly be silent. I think people will realize that there's only so far you can stretch a fart joke, or that of Stephen Hawking receiving multiple, accidental physical assaults.
The majority of the contemporary jabs at Britney Spears or Barry Bonds fall flat. Even though the movie they're spoofing runs nearly two hours, they don't have enough material here before it all starts to go stale. The filmmakers incorporate the mythologies of other Marvel comic books like "Fantastic Four" and "The X-Men."
All of it feels like filler. Brief cameos from Pamela Anderson and Tracey Morgan are too weird and ultimately unsatisfying diversions. Christopher MacDonald's supporting role as the arch-villain named Hourglass is the only worthy of applause. His performance elevates the material, while Marion Ross, the mom from the Happy Days TV series, is lovely but wasted in this film.
I will say in light of recent events, a scene in which the Dalai Lama is stripped naked and a bunch of Buddhist monks get into fisticuffs brought a perverse smile to my face.
But, all the MySpace, YouTube, and Facebook references were just too annoying and felt like the film was trying too hard to be hip, even more so than Juno or Superbad.
Two Stars out of Five
Rated PG-13 for crude, sexual content and language
Running Time: 1 hr. and 25 mins.