A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this broad spoof (which was written and directed by the writer of two of the Scary Movie comedies) features crude sexual humor, repeated pee and fart jokes, and violent slapstick. Sexual allusions focus on women's breasts, adolescent male lust, and bodily functions. The effects of the movie's violence are minimal and meant to be funny, though viewers do see bloody injuries and bodies being broken, wood-chipped, and burned. Language includes one use of "f--k," plus other profanity (primarily "s--t"), and there are visual or verbal mentions of hash, vodka, and a bong.
What's the story?
Like so many movie superheroes before him, Rick Riker (Drake Bell) first appears as an awkward high school student mooning over a pretty blond classmate, Jill Johnson (Sara Paxton). Like Spider-Man, he's then bitten by a genetically engineered bug that grants him a name (here, a dragonfly) and is transformed from geeky to heroic -- sort of. In this spoof, Rick confronts many obstacles: the supervillain who wants to destroy the world (Christopher McDonald); the devoted, clueless aunt (Happy Days' Marion Ross); a randy uncle (Leslie Nielsen); a wannabe sidekick (Kevin Hart); and a bald mentor in a wheelchair (Tracy Morgan). As Rick seeks his purpose as a superhero, he learns to protect Empire City from harm, trust his loved ones and, at last, how to fly.
Is it any good?
A decidedly generic, obvious spoof, Craig Mazin's SUPERHERO MOVIE essentially strings together scenes from other movies, reconceived as fart and sex jokes. All the gags suffer from overkill; for example, when a flashback shows little Rick and his parents attacked by criminals, the child doesn't just witness mom and dad's deaths, as in Batman Begins -- instead, he accidentally shoots them dead himself. When, as in The X-Men, he visits Dr. Xavier's "School for the Non-Asian Gifted," he sees an assortment of "mutants," ranging from a 'roid-raged Barry Bonds (Sean Simms) to a big-bosomed (but frankly tired-looking) Invisible Woman (Pamela Anderson). And when his aunt dies, his uncle doesn't just mourn her -- he tries to hump her corpse in the coffin.
It may be that the golden age for spoofs is over. With The Daily Show making fun of the news and every movie genre skewered at least once already, the concept is too familiar to be funny or very insightful, especially when the jokes hover around bathroom accidents. But it may also be that too many recent spoofs have been lazy and cheap, and that another, more intelligent effort --along the lines of Scream -- could attract a current audience and have something to say about that audience's culture as well. This, however, is not that movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the "typical" superhero story elements that the movie mocks. What characters and plots twists do you recognized from other, "real" superhero movies? Why do you think these elements are repeated in so many superhero movies, comic books, and TV shows? Why do superhero stories have such lasting appeal? Families can also discuss how the movie uses girls and women as objects of humor. Is that kind of thing OK when it's being played for laughs? Why or why not?
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