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If you're even remotely familiar with the story of Spider-Man, then you know Rick Riker. Like Spidey's alter ego, Peter Parker, Rick is a nerdy teen who's being raised by his caring Aunt Lucille and Uncle Albert. Rick's got a crush on pretty Jill Johnson, but she's dating a local football hero and only sees Rick as the nice kid next door.
On a school field trip to a biotechnology research company, of course, Rick is bitten by a genetically enhanced spider, er, dragonfly. After stumbling home and sleeping five days straight, he awakens with his DNA scrambled and odd powers at his beck and call.
As Rick explores his new powers—such as the ability to walk on walls—he's approached by Professor Xavier, who runs a school for would-be young superheroes. Soon Rick is decked out in cool green and trying to super-impress a certain blond neighbor. Oh ... and he's righting the city's wrongs, too.
The biggest wrong is a guy named Lou Landers, who used his company's über-technology to transform himself from a terminally ill corporate CEO to a terminally evil super-villain dubbed The Hourglass. When this baddie begins to weaken, all he has to do is touch another person to suck the life out of his victim. And he's planning a mass drain of thousands that will render him immortal.
Only Dragonfly stands in his way ... a superhero who isn't even sure he likes his super-moniker.
And one who can't even fly.
There's not much heroism going on in this superhero story, but Dragonfly does try to stop the mad villain. And Jill jumps in front of a hurtling projectile, risking her life to protect her green-clad superhero.
During an award ceremony, Rick mistakes the Dalai Lama for a disguised Hourglass and starts hitting him and stripping his clothes off. Soon a fight between Catholic bishops and Tibetan Buddhists breaks out in the audience.
Crude sexual humor is substituted for genuine satire throughout the movie. In fact, so many jokes and scenes center on sexual topics that listing them all would take up the space of several reviews. The foul barrage is constant, ranging from female anatomy references and a wet T-shirt scene, to penis and castration jokes, to "slapstick" images of necrophilia, to a not-so-subtle allusion to oral sex as well as a wink at bestiality.
If that summary isn't enough to stop you right in your super-moviegoer tracks, here's a brief-but-representative sampling of several ultra-problematic moments. Uncle Albert gets upset at a funeral, jumps into a coffin and begins groping the female corpse's breasts, acting as though he's having sex with the dead woman. Hourglass has killed a woman and is trying to hide her body in a closet when a passing janitor misinterprets his hip thrusts as sex between the two. Rick ogles Jill from his bedroom window as she strips down to a skimpy bra and panties and starts pole dancing on her bedpost. Rick and Jill kiss passionately several times. On one occasion, their tongues stick together. And in a scene that plays during the credits, Jill complains about the large size of her breasts while the camera delivers an ogling close-up as she jiggles them to make her point.
Rick accidentally spills a hormone-laced animal aphrodisiac on himself and is attacked by an ever-growing number of aroused forest creatures. His friend records the sexually twisted scene for YouTube.
Other superheroes get in on the crude action as well. For instance, a male student at Professor Xavier's school stretches his arm across a schoolyard in order to snap a photo under a female student's skirt. She then stretches her leg across the same space and kicks him in the crotch. Professor X's wife accuses him of having sex with the Invisible Girl and starts beating up on a now visible—and buxom—superheroine (played by Pamela Anderson) whose outfit features a neckline that plunges practically to her waist.
Since this is a superhero spoof, there's a super-amount of head-thumping, wall-smashing, blade-slinging and laser-frying. And even when the violence is significant—such as when characters are maimed or killed—it's all played for a lark.
Rick tosses gasoline on a burning man and sends him screaming off a rooftop. Hourglass hurls titanium blades, impaling both Rick and Jill. Animals meet their end via electrical surges or intense rays that fry them. (In one case, Rick stomps on a creature to put out the flames). Dragonfly rescues Jill from several thugs; when he realizes that she appreciates his heroic actions, he keeps mercilessly slamming the defeated men and breaking their bones.
Another scene worth mentioning mixes crude sexual and violent "humor." Hourglass throws a bomb at Dragonfly that attaches to his crotch. After failing to get Jill to "yank it off," Dragonfly flips over to plant his crotch in Hourglass's face. [Spoiler Warning] The bomb explodes to defeat the villain. We also watch Rick accidentally shoot and kill his own parents.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word and around 25 s-words singe audiences like heat vision. Along with those vulgarities, we're also bombed by a handful each of the words "a--," "h---," "b--ch" and "d--n." God's name is misused about 10 times. Male and female genitalia are referenced repeatedly.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Aunt Lucille stuffs a turkey with a number of unlikely ingredients, including an ashtray full of cigarette butts and a quart of vodka. During a heart-to-heart talk, Uncle Albert gives his nephew a beer. A dog drinks alcohol from a bag-covered bottle in an alleyway. A doctor injects himself with some sort of substance that makes him pass out. "Barry Bonds" chugs steroids and shoots laser beams from his eyes. Lou Landers joins Rick's family for dinner and brings a bottle of wine. A mutant superhero chomps on a cigar. To explain a cut lip, Rick says that his "crack pipe broke." A depressed Rick smokes frosting in a bong.
Other Negative Elements
Potty humor abounds, from characters falling face-first into feces to spraying urine around a bedroom. A couple scenes also mock real-world scientist Dr. Stephen Hawking.
Given the recent spate of popular super-powered heroes who have flown, stretched, blazed and webbed their way across the big screen, it seems only natural that superhero parodies would flex their satirical muscles and try to take those earnest comic-book figures down a notch or two. Rising to the latest challenge, director Craig Mazin—who helped pen past spoofs Scary Movie 3 and 4—grabbed his cape and cowl, and set to work.
His Superhero Movie lampoons the Spider-Man film franchise, but also rips off scenes from Batman, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four for good measure. And in a move no doubt intended to enhance the film's appeal for young viewers, Mazin placed the movie on the spandex-covered shoulders of tween fave Drake Bell (from Nickelodeon's Drake & Josh). Then he fleshed out the rest of the flick with everything from Pamela Anderson's over-exposed chest to Leslie Nielsen's oh-so-tired deadpan gags.
By the time he was finished, Mazin felt he had done a pretty good job on the comedy and said in a movieweb.com interview, "I just want [the audience] to go enjoy the story, enjoy the romance, enjoy the action and laugh the whole way through."
But unfortunately, the director's spidey sense, er, dragonfly detection, must be on the fritz because Superhero Movie is more tired splat than enjoyable hit. There are a few parody-worthy chuckles to be had, but they're few and far between. The majority of the humor is a collection of scatological gags (one scene is nothing but five straight minutes of a woman passing gas), vulgar expressions, cleavage shots and sophomoric sexual references. Come to think of it, even calling it sophomoric is too kind ... an insult to the intelligence of sophomores everywhere.
And if you took out all that rash-inducing ribaldry, you'd be left with, well, something about as long as the movie's trailer.
Parodies can be high-flying fun when done right. But when satire slips into sleaze, the result is a decidedly un-super effort that plummets right out of the sky.
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Readability Age Range
Drake Bell as Rick Riker / Dragonfly; Sara Paxton as Jill Johnson; Christopher McDonald as Lou Landers / Hourglass; Leslie Nielsen as Uncle Albert; Tracy Morgan as Professor Xavier; Brent Spiner as Dr. Strom; Jeffrey Tambor as Dr. Whitby
Craig Mazin ( )