Saturday, April 16, 2011

Nothing "Super" about this smug Taxi Driver wannabe

Super (2011) 
96 min., rated R.
Grade: D

Writer-director James Gunn must've intended "Super" to be a geeky, subversive goof, but his follow-up to "Slither," a deliciously disgusting slimeball of fun, is a smug and off-putting black comedy. Rainn Wilson plays Frank, a sadsack diner line cook who loses his waitress wife Sarah (Liv Tyler), a recovering addict, when she begins using and abusing again. She's fallen into the arms of a weaselly drug dealer named Jacques (Kevin Bacon). So, pushed by the hand of God and a Christian superhero show, Frank reinvents himself as a masked crusader, The Crimson Bolt, complete with a self-made red costume and mask but no secret powers. His secret weapon? A wrench…that he uses to bash in people's heads to a bloody pulp that, you know, butt in line at the movie theater, or sell drugs, or molest kids. 

Wilson almost makes Frank's misery sympathetic, but he's really just a pathetic loser with a screw loose that turns him into an insane psychotic even if he thinks he's a do-gooder. It's especially hard to root for him, considering Frank is such a grating doofus and Sarah seems hardly worth saving. Ellen Page, bless her, jumps into the film to let it all hang out in a gonzo performance. With her dependable comic energy, the whip-smart "Juno" star plays Frank's kid sidekick Libby, a 22-year-old comic book store clerk with a nympho side, who ends up calling herself (tuh duh!) Bolty. But we never understand where Libby comes from or why she acts the way she does. However, Nathan Fillion and director Gunn score a few laughs as the Holy Avenger and the tongue-waggling Demonswill on the religious programming. 

An oddball, anarchic edge can always be appreciated, but this indie-hipster sibling to "Kick-Ass" has such a contempt for its characters and audience. Just because "Super" wants to be so weird and offbeat doesn't mean its tone has to be wildly all over the place, sliding from deadpan to broad comedy to extreme violence, or that a low-budget film has to be ugly to look at. Usually in superhero movies, no one can tell the man from the superman, but not here. Maybe that's one of the jokes inside this bleak, off-the-wall dud, but it's hard to tell what's funny about it or what the point of it all is. 

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