This latest churn-'em-and-burn-'em genre parody flick offers a handful of sophomoric (in a good way) and worthwhile laughs to even the most serious-minded comic-book fans.
It's basically the first Spider-Man film, with dirtier jokes. The plotline dutifully follows--and upends--all the story points of the wall-crawler's big screen opus, replacing Peter Parker with Rick Riker (Drake Bell), a geeky high schooler bitten by a genetically enhanced dragonfly who then gains requisite superpowers. Rick has the pert love interest (Sara Paxton), the megalomaniacal nemesis the Hourglass (Christopher McDonald), and a dotty, doting uncle-aunt combo (Leslie Nielsen and Marion Ross) as well as walk-ons encounters from other superheroes spoofmeisters including Tracy Morgan as Professor X, Craig Bierko as Wolverine, Simon Rex as the Human Torch and Pamela Anderson in blink-and-you'll-miss-her turn as the Invisible Girl, quite literally. But despite some allusions to a handful of recent heroic hits, Superhero Movie sticks surprisingly close to the Spider-Man template only, and never adequately attacks the entire phenomenon of comic book flicks.
To use accomplished parody film icons like Nielsen (of Naked Gun renown) and Robert Hays (of Airplane legend) is to invite disastrous comparison. Fortunately, disaster doesn't strike--not entirely. The new kids Bell (of Nickelodeon's Drake and Josh fame) and Paxton (Aquamarine) are sunny enough on-screen personalities but don't quite have the comic chops or the oh-so-serious ironic approach to mark them as standouts in the genre. Most of the star cameos fall flatter than you'd hope, though Marion Ross surprises with a go-for-broke turn that will forever color the way you think of Happy Days' Mrs. Cunningham. McDonald does all the film's heavy lifting, gleefully chewing the scenery, spitting it out and then re-chewing the remains. Special props go to Miles Fisher for his brief but brilliant send-up of Tom Cruise.
Superhero Movie neither soars to the silly heights of its predecessor Scary Movies nor crashes to the ground like the dreadful Epic Movie. Craig Mazin, who wrote the third and fourth Scary Movie offerings and helmed the 2000 superhero spoof The Specials, has enough of a solid feel for the material. The laughs come at a decent pace, though lots of the gags lack inspiration and too many of the spot-on shot swipes from the Spider-Man films stop at imitation and rarely achieve a greater sense of parody and fun. Still, if a silly look at superheroics is what you're after--and TV's The Tick is still lingering in your Netflix queue--then Superhero Movie wins the day in the end.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 stars.