A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Super is a 2010 dark satire starring Rainn Wilson as a pipe wrench-wielding vigilante superhero named the Crimson Bolt. Although this inventive-but-uneven dramedy is being marketed as an edgy superhero flick, it's much darker than you might expect. In fact, it's sometimes downright dreary. That, plus the violence -- including gouged cheeks and eyes, bludgeoned heads, a gun battle, explosions, an imagined rape, and more -- as well as swearing ("f--k," "s--t," and more), sexual scenes (some partial nudity), and drug content (one of the main characters is shown shooting up drugs) make this indie flick too intense for younger teens and tweens.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Frank (Rainn Wilson) can count on two fingers his happiest moments: the day he helped a cop capture a thief by pointing out which direction the thug went, and the day he married his lovely-but-broken wife, a former addict named Sarah (Liv Tyler). So when she leaves him for a drug dealer (a deliciously slimy Kevin Bacon), his entire world falls apart. The only way to put it together again, naturally (or should that be "unnaturally"?), is to don a makeshift red uniform, wield a jacked-up wrench as his weapon, and "fight crime" as the Crimson Bolt. Along the way, Frank picks up a frantic twentysomething comic-book-store clerk (Ellen Page) as his sidekick and makes plans to take Sarah back from the clutches of evil. But vanquishing drug dealers is one thing; winning his wife -- and his life -- back is another thing entirely.
Is it any good?
The first third of SUPER is promising, with enough subversion and outright wackiness to gratify viewers hoping for more than the usual superhero routine. Frank, played with surprising pathos by Wilson, is like no hero we’ve seen before, his choices both unpredictable and interesting. He's inspired to become the Crimson Bolt by two things: a psychedelic vision involving an eel-like creature, and a superhero series that appalls him with its insipid writing and bad acting. He wants to fight for good but sees nothing wrong with whacking two people who cut in line on the head until they bleed -- the same punishment he applies to drug dealers.
Then, two-thirds of the way through, the film takes a big turn, and suddenly everything and the kitchen sink is thrown into the mix. There’s addiction-speak, cartoon whimsy, buddy comedy, sad sex, brutal (very brutal) violence -- and it doesn’t all gel. Instead, it feels like the filmmakers loaded the car, gassed it up, drove full throttle, then jumped out at the last minute. The car bobs and weaves, pitches off the cliff, explodes, then suddenly softens. Say what? Exactly.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes someone a hero or a villain. Which category does Frank fall into? Why do you think he's compelled to fight crime -- and are his methods justifiable?
Is the violence gratuitous or necessary for the movie's tone and feel? How does it compare to that in other superhero movies?
- In theaters: April 1, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: August 9, 2011
- Cast: Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Rainn Wilson
- Director: James Gunn
- Studio: IFC Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong bloody violence, pervasive language, sexual content and drug use
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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