If "Superhero Movie" gives you the same giddy, guilty-pleasure feeling as "Airplane!" and the "Naked Gun" movies, it's no accident. Some of those movies' personnel who were also involved in two lesser "Scary Movie" sequels show up here. (Those include writer-director Craig Mazin, who happily has come a long way from 1997's abysmal "Rocketman.")
The movie's title says it all. It's a comedy that takes a well-known hit (in this case, "Spider-Man"), turns it inside out, and uses it as a clothesline for gags. In this parody version, nerdy Rick Riker (amiable Drake Bell of cable-TV's "Drake and Josh") gets bitten by a mutant dragonfly, turning him into...well, take a guess. Meanwhile, a well-meaning scientist (Chris McDonald) turns nasty when his experiment backfires and he finds he must sap others' life-blood in order to keep himself alive.
As is typical of such parodies, the movie's approach is as subtle as a spitball gun. Some of the gags are terrific, and some are groaners. But they're all fired at such a rapid pace that after a while, you have no choice but to give in to the silliness. The characters are like shooting-gallery ducks waiting to have parody lobbied at them. Best of the bunch are Rick's well-meaning but dotty uncle and aunt (delightfully played by Leslie Nielsen and "Happy Days'" Marion Ross). The most pitiable is a take-off on disabled genius Stephen Hawking, who seems to push Mazin's bad-taste button over and over ad nauseum.
This leads me to the movie's most required caveat. While the flick is mostly silly fun, it pushes its "PG-13" rating right up to the edge of the "R" cliff. The movie is larded with sexual gags and profanity abound, and what might possibly be cinema's longest-ever flatulence gag.
But if you can bear up under the cringe factor, "Superhero Movie" is mostly high-powered fun. Nifty comedy here runs neck-and-neck with bad taste. It's a close race, but the comedy wins.
"Superhero Movie" is rated PG-13 for countless sex and drug references, crude humor, and adult language.
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