Film Review: “Super”

Anything is possible, but it would be a quite a feat for a film to be successfully funny, dramatic, and idiotic.  Sure, you can do dramedy or goofball humor, but even that is quite a challenge in itself.  Combining all three seems like a recipe that invites disaster.  “Super” tries, and it fails.  It’s just stupid.

Written and directed by James Gunn (“Slither”), “Super” tells the story of Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson), a short order cook who decides to become a superhero after his wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a drug dealer (Kevin Bacon).  Whereas most people would get over losing a junkie whore wife and conclude she was a waste of time to begin with, Frank is so lonely, pathetic, and delusional that he believes she has been kidnapped and must be saved.  He also prays regularly and has visions he believes are God speaking to him, so he becomes convinced he must fight evil.  So he makes a red superhero costume, names his alter ego The Crimson Bolt, and goes around looking for crime with a pipe wrench as his weapon.  Unfortunately, Frank is an idiot who can’t differentiate between evil and minor annoyances, so at one point he bashes a guy’s head in for cutting in line at a theater.  Funny stuff, right?     

 

Not only does it ask you to find something funny about a dangerously idiotic religious nut, but it also wants you to find him sympathetic and heroic.  It’s a fundamental flaw at the core of the film.  It wants you to laugh at its main character and then in the next breath feel sorry for him and cheer him on.  Sometimes, it happens in the same exact moment.  Frank gives a speech near the end about crime that the film knows is stupid, but it simultaneously wants you to find it poignant and moving.  And ultimately, Frank D’Arbo isn’t funny or sympathetic, just dangerous and disturbing.  The religious overtones are impossible to miss, and I found them extremely off-putting.  Worse, I sometimes feared the film believes in them.

For a supposed comedy, the violence is shockingly gory and over the top.  Heads get shot off and bashed in, and people get blown up as well as in any action or horror film.  The violence is actually entertaining and well done; sadly, it’s the best part, and it feels like it belongs in a different film. 

Nobody in the talented cast gives a great performance.  Rainn Wilson comes close in a role perfectly suited for him, but he overacts in his dramatic moments, and does the best he can with the lame humor.  Ellen Page is wasted as a comic book store clerk who catches on to Frank and wants to be his sidekick.  Kevin Bacon hams it up, having a good time as a scumbag drug dealer.  Liv Tyler gives a convincing performance because all she is asked to do is look stoned and nod out.  Overall, the performances are serviceable to disappointing, but in their defense, the actors aren’t given much to work with.

 

Parts of “Super” occasionally (rarely) work individually, but they never even approach coming together.  The film is tonally all over the place, and not in a way that feels clever and irreverent, but in a way that feels flailing and tossing everything against the wall to see what sticks.  The film’s biggest sin is it just isn’t funny, and the serious moments don’t work because they appear randomly out of nowhere, without being earned.  I suppose there are worse films out there; “Super” isn’t entirely unwatchable, but that’s hardly an endorsement.  It’s anything but super.

1 ½ out of 5 stars

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Author: Jeff Derrickson View all posts by
Jeff Derrickson is a member of the Perfectly Sane Show and co-host of Movie Dudes. He studied English and mass media at Northeastern Illinois University.
  • Magnus Risebro

    Hmm. I thought the reaction to this film around the blogosphere had been a little too overwhelmingly positive. Nice to see a different viewpoint, especially one so well argued for.

    Great review!

  • http://twitter.com/kariyanine Chris Scott

    Bah… I liked it, finding it both funny and heartwarming. I’m not going to argue with you here, I’ll save that for Movie Dudes.