Posted by: thewearyprofessor | September 26, 2009

DVD Review: Super Capers

Director: Ray Griggs   Star: Justin Whalen  2008 94 mins.  Rated PG  Lionsgate DVD Released 7/2009

Inept superheroes confront inept baddies in an inept parody.

 

I am The Weary Professor, but as many readers of this blog know, outside of cyberspace my secret identity is mild-mannered professor Frank Jay Gruber.  This being the case, my natural inclination must be to bestow all possible goodwill and benefits of the doubt to a superhero movie in which the main hero calls himself Gruberman and spouts lines referencing a Grubermobile.  Sadly, this film rapidly used up all of the goodwill, borrowed a few more doubt benefits, then blew through those before the hero even donned his first tailored costume.

Click to Purchase at Amazon.com

Click to Purchase at Amazon.com

Writer-director-actor Ray”Orson Welles” Griggs obviously targeted Super Capers as a spirited and loving send-up of the cavalcade of comic book crusaders that have cavorted on TV and movie screens for the last forty-plus years.  He undershot the target by more than the length of a single bound.

Even the most outlandish parodies need a viable and moderately interesting plot upon which to hang their jokes.  Griggs could have begged, borrowed or stolen the plot of any familiar superhero saga he wished, lampooned it and escaped legally unscathed by citing the parody clause.  Instead he concocts a convoluted story about an evil judge/super villain who sets up a wannabe superhero to take the fall for a bank robbery by having him sentenced to a reform school for inept heroes, only to be defeated by a recreational vehicle’s sudden ability to traverse the fourth dimension.  I probably should have provided a spoiler warning for the above summary, but no one could follow the plot I outlined without first being strapped down and forced to endure the film.

Lest I seem too disparaging, I must mention some positive aspects.  The cinematography is actually quite good, the color palette is admirably bright and cheery, the CGI special effects are surprisingly effective and the Lionsgate DVD presents the film in a very nice anamorphic transfer with a solid slate of extras for any NTSB inspectors who want to study the reasons for the crash.  All of this is outweighed, however, by the script’s disappointing attempts at humor, the director’s consistent lack of comic timing and the generally smug and amateurish performance by Lois and Clark’s Justin Whalen, the film’s lead actor.  The director and film editor apparently share the same comic philosophy: “If you stare at the joke long enough, then it’ll be funny.”  In a  film where the jokes spend more time hanging in the air than the superheroes do, the script is so full of comedy Kryptonite that it should be sealed in a lead box and dropped into the Pacific.

There are a handful of amusing nods to genre fans scattered among the film’s painful 94 minutes.  My favorite is when Gruberman (I DO love that name) interacts with a cab-driver played by Adam West.  He’s driving his trusty 60’s George Barris Batmobile, converted into a taxi by the addition of a dome placed atop the open-air cockpit reading “air-conditioned cab”.  West hands the would-be hero a rubber-stamped “signed” photo and pointedly informs him there’s no charge, an act particularly amusing to anyone familiar with West’s mercenary attitude and pricing at autograph shows.  Here the full impact of the joke depends on inside knowledge, a potentially fatal flaw for a movie courting mainstream success.  How many modern audience members spot the nudge-nudge fan humor in having June Lockhart, the mom on Lassie and Lost in Space, cameo as one hero’s mother?  How about the film’s score echoing SF themes of the past or the dialogue mimicking Return of the Jedi so blatantly that the characters themselves realize it?  In a better-structured parody with laughs to spare and solid plot elements these love letters to fans could be excused, like the moment in the second Naked Gun movie when Lloyd Bochner unexpectedly runs across the screen screaming “It’s a cookbook!”; a reference which elicits nothing among most audience members, but leaves fans of the old Twilight Zone shaking with surprised laughter as they recall his particular episode.

The film’s attitude is amiable and I wish I could recommend Super Capers as an enjoyable time-waster.  Unfortunately, it is only a time-waster.

The Weary Professor grades it a D (taking into account extra credit for the name Gruberman and the Batmobile taxi).

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Responses

  1. Gruberman! I love it! Too bad he has a first name, though. “Ed” Gruberman? Makes him sound a lot less invulnerable, doesn’t it? Like Walter Superman or Fred Flash. Still, I guess it’s better than being called ‘Puffer Boy’.


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