If you’ve seen Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” lately, I think it’s safe to say that the film… hasn’t aged well. At all. Even when I was sitting in the theater watching it, I had an itching feeling that it could have been so much better. What’s shocking about “Superhero Movie” is not that it’s been advertised to death on Nickelodeon to impressionable children, but that it’s a completely on-the-nose satire of “Spider-Man.”
“Superhero Movie” has Raimi’s film down pat from the sappy montages, the cheesy dialogue, and the thirty-something high schoolers. Drake Bell’s history on Nickelodeon for sketch comedy shows actually helps his portrayal as Rick Riker, the gawking, goofy bumbling nerd of his high school who just can’t catch a break with the school bully and his childhood love interest Jill Johnson (Sara Paxton). Bell’s performance is probably the most enjoyable aspect here, even if he serves up double takes like they’re going out of style.
During a school trip at the local laboratory “Amalgamated,” Rick is bitten by a radioactive Dragon Fly and experiences some disturbing biological changes that his inept aunt and uncle barely notice even in spite of Rick’s sudden violent vomiting and stumbling. When he awakens days later, he discovers he has broadly-written superpowers that grant him the “power” of the Dragonfly.
While by no means a masterpiece, when Craig Mazin riffs on the “Spider-Man” trilogy, “Superhero Movie” is cause for some occasional chuckles. When it meanders into the void of topical in-vogue garbage that we’re supposed to confuse with comedy, the taint of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer can be felt. There are references to Britney Spears, Facebook, Google, 2 Girls 1 Cup, and there’s even a disgusting Stephen Hawking caricature thrown in for some reason.
The gold in all the crap may be the fantastic impression of Tom Cruise by Miles Fischer, but director Mazin otherwise just gets lazy for the sake of baiting the young crowds. Thankfully, the film drifts back into the satire and provides some pretty memorable moments that inspired some chuckles, including Rick going to drastic measures to hide from Lou Landers in his room, and the Thanksgiving gag. There’s also Bell and Paxton who excel at subtle impressions of the oafish MaGuire and the self-obsessed simple-minded Dunst.
The missed opportunity here among many is the Green Goblin and his gawdy suit completely ignored in favor of a rather inane sub-plot involving Christopher McDonald as the villanous youth-sucking Hourglass, a character comical in his theatrics, but is really nothing more than a flat gag that goes nowhere. Like many titles in the sub-genre, “Superhero Movie” just doesn’t know when to call it a day, dragging on and on (odd for a movie that doesn’t even reach ninety minutes).
In spite of all the deserved slack these spoof movies receive, “Superhero Movie” elicits a few laughs and almost gets it right. Almost.