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The Independent Critic

Drake Bell, Sarah Paxton, Christopher McDonald, Leslie Nielsen, Marion Ross, Jeffrey Tambor, Pamela Anderson
Craig Mazin
Rated PG-13
85 Mins.
 "Superhero Movie" 
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Having just groaned my way through the gayfully glee "Meet the Spartans," I am happy to report that "Superhero Movie" is, at least modestly, watchable.

Why is this?

Is it the involvement of co-producer David Zucker ("Airplane," "The Naked Gun" series), who was originally slated to direct the film?

Is it the lack of involvement of parody queen Carmen Electra, an actress who seemingly drops the IQ points and entertainment value of any film she is in?

Is it simply having the benefit of almost immediately following one of the lamer parody flicks, "Meet the Spartans?"

Is it the presence of writer/director Craig Mazin (screenwriter of "Scary Movie 3 and 4")?

I think it's Marion Ross. Remember her? The delightful mother from the long-running TV series "Happy Days" makes a delightfully rude appearance in "Superhero Movie" in what can only be considered one of contemporary cinema's best ever fart scenes.

No, I didn't say FIGHT scenes.

As cookie-cutter predictable as these parody films have become, one almost wishes some film school would sign on to have all of their graduates have to shoot one for their final project. Not only would it give their graduates an opportunity to shoot a major studio film, but it couldn't possibly end up in films any worse than the recent spate of parody films including "Meet the Spartans" and the "Date" movies.

Virtually every aspect of "Superhero Movie" feels and looks familiar to anyone who has seen any of these films from "Airplane" through to the recent "Meet the Spartans."

The movie poster? It's impossible to not think of the "Scary Movie" films.

Leslie Nielsen? C'mon. You will remember him being funnier in "Airplane" and the "Naked Gun" films.

"Superhero Movie" features the same exact rapid-fire approach to its humor, the same abundance of B-list and C-List celebrity cameos and the inherent rip-off of a variety of genre-themed movies, in this case a loosely developed plot similar to that of the original "Spider-Man" and "Batman," "Fantastic Four," "Superman" and "X-Men."

In the film, young geek Rick Riker (Drake Bell, "Drake & Josh") is bitten by a mutant insect and is turned into a superhero named "Dragonfly."

By the way, am I the only one who instantly thought it would have been funnier to have had a Wayans Brother show up and turn into "Superfly?"

I digress.

Along the way, he longs for the beautiful Jill (Sara Paxton, "Sydney White") and must battle the evil Hourglass (Christopher McDonald, "Mad Money").

The conflicted superhero is still struggling to get over the death of his parents, reminiscent of "Batman," with Robert Hays of "Airplane" fame showing up as his father and the always dependable Leslie Nielsen popping in as his Uncle Albert.

At one point during the film's screening, I attempted to count how many times the script referenced Myspace, Youtube and Wikipedia.

I quickly lost count.

As many times as the humor falls flat or is simply culturally irrelevant, Mazin does enlist enough naturally funny folks in the project to make "Superhero Movie" surprisingly watchable. Along with the entertaining appearances from Marion Ross and Leslie Nielsen, Jeffrey Tambor ("Arrested Development") shows up as an off-the-wall doctor and elicits quite a few laughs in his time onscreen.

Other celebrity cameos and bit players include the likes of "SNL" alums Tracy Morgan and Regina Hall, comic Keith David, "Star Trek" vet Brent Spiner, Craig Bierko ("Boston Legal"), "Scary" star Simon Rex, Dan Castellaneta ("The Simpsons"), Charlene Tilton ("Dallas"), and the obligatory appearance from Pamela Anderson.

Isn't it a bad sign when the most entertaining aspect of these spoof films has become the celebrity spotting rather than the actual film itself?

Despite its complete and utter mediocrity, predictability and rather low joke-to-laugh ratio, "Superhero Movie" is a definite step up from recent parody films courtesy of its comically gifted staff and the fact that the jokes that do work do elicit more than the all too familiar parody chuckle of recognition.

Far from super, "Superhero Movie" is one of the better of the recent parody films but falls far short of Zucker's own "Airplane" and "Naked Gun" entries. Still, considering the overwhelming success of even the lamest of the parody flicks, this often exasperated film critic at least takes solace in the knowledge that this time they may actually be at least minimally rewarded for their loyalty.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic