Directed by Craig Mazin
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 82 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
MSRP: $ 29.95
Release Date: July 8, 2008
Review Date: July 1, 2008
The prince of parodists David Zucker returns to the fold with Superhero Movie, the newest in a long line of spoofs of popular entertainment genres. Along with producing partner Robert K. Weiss (who collaborated with him on such gems as Airplane!, Police Squad, Hot Shots!, and The Naked Gun) and writer-director Craig Mazin (fresh from the last couple of Scary Movie installments), Zucker has fashioned a cottage industry out of skewering movie genres in ever-broader (and often less effective) fashion. Superhero Movie continues in a similar haphazard style with its farce often forced and its laughs telegraphed miles ahead of their destination. That’s not to say that the film won’t make you laugh; it certainly has some elements of genuine zaniness and fun, but there’s the same quality of quiet desperation about much of the writing here that has kept any of the follow-up spoofs from registering on anything near the high level of farcical wit and comic thrust that the original Airplane! delivered.
Clearly taking the original Spider-Man film as its jumping off point, Superhero Movie finds timid high school student Rick Riker (Drake Bell) bitten by a supercharged dragonfly on a science field trip and turning into superhero Dragonfly. Aching for love for sweet neighbor Jill Johnson (Sara Paxton) and helped along in his adjustment to his new powers by his Aunt Lucille (Marion Ross) and Uncle Albert (Leslie Nielsen), Dragonfly finds himself facing the dastardly enemy Hourglass (Christopher McDonald), an evil nemesis who drains the life essence from human beings to continually keep his own life forces charged. The film shoves Rick/Dragonfly through many familiar superhero scenarios from summer tent pole movies from years past (think X-Men, Fantastic Four and just a touch of Batman), but his primary goal is to learn to fly so he can better combat his archenemy. Until then, he must cope with the public and private tribulations that all superheroes seem to experience.
Craig Mazin’s script does offer some occasionally funny riffs on familiar scenes from previous movie superhero franchises: the upside down kiss, the climbing of walls, the fashioning of a costume, but as usual, there is too great a reliance on slapstick pratfalls, poop, and fart jokes (an especially extended one with Marion Ross has the trouper enduring all with great good will). The wit of the double entendre seems to be a thing of the past now with these movies. It’s all about the visual gags involving body parts and bodily functions: obvious but not inspired.
All of the actors go through their paces with the necessary deadpan delivery that propels the comedy of the absurd onward and upward. Drake Bell is all innocence and spunk as the new superhero, and Sara Paxton has her sexy object of desire character down pat (wonder what Anna Faris was doing when the movie was cast?) Leslie Nielsen can do this stuff in his sleep, so there’s nothing here any different from his performances in dozens of previous spoofs he’s done. As for others in the cast, Kevin Hart has his Chris Tucker mimicry spot-on, as annoying as that can be. Christopher McDonald is right with the program as a harbinger of evil. Robert Joy gets off a few slapstick goodies as a rude voice-boxed Stephen Hawking, and the highlight of the film is an inspired cameo bit with actor Miles Fisher doing the best Tom Cruise impersonation ever. Build a movie around this guy! Look quick and you’ll see Craig Bierko, Tracy Morgan, Pamela Anderson, Charlene Tilton, Robert Hays, and Regina Hall in little bits here and there.
The movie is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, and it’s probably the best standard definition movie transfer I’ve seen in months. Solid colors, accurate flesh tones, deep blacks, excellent shadow detail, and sharpness achieved without the use of edge enhancement are all superb in this release. I really could find no artifacts of any kind to ruin the sterling picture quality of this release. The film has been divided into 18 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 EX encoding is a solid through heavily front-centric audio mix. Very little is done with the rear channels, the back surrounds, or the subwoofer, disappointing with the possibilities offered through the action in the picture. Why offer a back surround encode if you’re not going to do anything with it?
Producers Robert K. Weiss, David Zucker, and writer-director Craig Mazin are together again in the available audio commentary. Mazin does by far the majority of the talking showing enthusiasm for the film and the various people he worked with. Occasionally the men break each other up or talk over one another so that nothing is discernible, but most of the time, it’s an easy-going and good-natured track.
All of the featurettes and additional scenes are offered in anamorphic widescreen.
The disc offers an alternate ending which is much weaker than the one used in the final picture. It runs 5 ¼ minutes.
21 deleted/extended scenes are available for individual viewing or all together in one 10 ½-minute chunk. Many are seconds long and offer at most only an additional gag to the film though there is more of the wonderful Miles Fisher doing Tom Cruise, and it’s just as funny as the footage in the finished movie.
“Meet the Cast” allows members of the acting company a chance to comment on how wonderful everyone in the film was. It’s a very fluffy 11 ¼-minute featurette.
Not to be outdone, the director and producers offer their own puff piece in “The Art of Spoofing” as they each sing the praises of the others in being able to fashion this kind of movie comedy for the masses. It runs for 10 ½ minutes.
The film’s original theatrical trailer runs 2 ¼ minutes and contains several of the best gags in the movie.
The DVD includes nonanamorphic trailers for, among others, The Hammer, The Nanny Diaries, and Finishing the Game.
Superhero Movie is exactly what you expect it to be if you’ve seen any of the Zucker movie parodies for the last 25 years. It works in spots and has a game cast willing to try anything to make you laugh, but Airplane! it isn‘t.