Craig Mazin | 85 mins | in-flight | 12A / PG-13
Years ago, I saw Scary Movie. I don’t really know what I thought of it anymore, but I never expected I’d find myself watching another entry in the critically-derided …Movie series. But then I found myself on a plane, half asleep and with a choice of films I’d mostly rather watch on a decent-sized screen, and decided that maybe Superhero Movie wouldn’t be so bad after all…
As anyone who saw a trailer will have guessed, Superhero Movie is mainly a spoof of Spider-Man… a film that is now six years old. Unfortunately, this means that most of the best jokes have already been done in numerous other sketch-length spoofs, amongst them one at the MTV Movie Awards and one during Comic Relief 2005. The latter even did the green costume thing, though the hero was ‘Spider-Plant Man’ rather than the (less funny) Dragonfly employed here. Superhero Movie takes all this sketchery to the next level, however, crafting its story simply by reworking the first Spider-Man film almost scene by scene, inserting jokes (and, more often, ‘jokes’) where it can — which is about once per scene.
There are also asides that spoof X-Men, Fantastic Four and Batman, but they barely warrant a mention. They’re certainly not any funnier. In fact, the climax is the only wholly original plot point — or, at least, plot point not directly lifted from Spider-Man, as it may well come from some other comic source. This incessant copying makes the film feel like an over-extended sketch, and so it becomes clear that something like Mystery Men, with its genuinely original plot, makes for a much better superhero comedy movie.
As for the gags themselves, they’re childish, lewd, offensive (“isn’t Stephen Hawking funny!”), too specific to American culture, too topical (they’ll be dated within six months), already dated (“isn’t the Windows paperclip annoying!”), too obvious… It’s very much a movie made for now, not for posterity. Actually, to be fair, it’s very much a movie made for six years ago. In this respect I suppose it’s just like the rest of the …Movie series, which I’ve always felt looked like cheap TV specials owing to their specificity and, well, rubbishness. Still, believe it or not, some bits are actually amusing. Or amusing enough while they’re on. Perhaps I was just laughing out of desperation. I certainly can’t remember any of the jokes now.
Intriguingly (a word I use loosely here), there are a bunch of deleted scenes and gags during the end credits — not bloopers, but genuine deleted bits. It’s a mystery as to why these aren’t either in the film itself or relegated to DVD extras — it’s not like running time is an issue, and clearly pacing isn’t. In fact, some of the deletions are much funnier than gags that were left in. They’re probably the only reason to keep watching Superhero Movie to the end, though they’re not reason enough to start it in the first place.
Superhero Movie featured on my list of The Five Worst Films I Saw in 2008, which can be read in full here.