Though not as behind-the-times as Mel Brooks was with the Star Wars-lampooning Spaceballs, Superhero Movie nevertheless feels thrice as musty as that charmingly dated satire, pandering to those short on memory as if its central inspiration, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, were just released last week. Essentially a retread of every bad grade-school joke you’re happy to have forgotten, the film manages the unlikely act of making the much-lampooned satirists Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer look reasonably intelligent by comparison. Spidey is now the Dragonfly, longing for the girl next door as he deals with the newfound abilities and responsibilities that accompany his transformation via the bite of a genetically mutated dragonfly. Say what you will about them (and there is much to say), the aforementioned creators’ Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans at least took the time to rework their chosen points of parody, revealing implicit absurdities in narrative structure and thematic undertones despite trading primarily in simple jabs and buffoonish sight gags. Superhero Movie holds plenty of both but its almost-exact replication of Spider-Man’s plotline seems like willful laziness, a loose structure upon which every dick, fart, and gay joke can be hung for those amused by the very existence of such things. During a class trip to an animal laboratory, Bell’s Rick Riker accidentally comes into contact with a reproductive stimulant, attracting all kinds of mammals, birds, reptiles, and even a snail to hump him in unison like a giant animal carpet. Scenes such a this will have hordes of eight-year-olds in tears and your inner equivalent wanting to break out similarly (I’ll admit to slight hysterics during a moment of unrestrained urination), but their base humor evaporates on impact, no small thanks to the zero-effort storytelling and lack of concern for detail work, in which the faked punches are blatantly obvious and dubbed lines abound like popcorn. Airplane! similarly milked the disaster genre for all its worth but the jokes and timing of their delivery were so precise they could stop on a dime; Superhero Movie may embrace PG-13 timidity but, worst of all, it comes with a retroactive expiration date. Why does the Dragonfly wax emo about his inability to fly when such powers are never demanded of him? Why is Stephen Hawking an object of such shapeless ridicule? Who knows. Like the incessantly laughing, obnoxiously loud girl behind me at the screening, it’s one you’ll be happy to forget.
Score:Cast: Drake Bell, Sara Paxton, Christopher McDonald, Leslie Nielsen, Marion Ross, Kevin Hart, Ryan Hansen, Tracy Morgan, Regina Hall, Keith David, Brent Spiner, Robert Joy, Jeffery Tambor, Sam Cohen, Robert Hays, Nicole Sullivan, Pamela Anderson Director: Craig Mazin Screenwriter: Craig Mazin Distributor: Dimension Films Running Time: 85 min Rating: PG-13 Year: 2008 Buy: Video