Craig Mazin has spent the entire decade of his career writing, directing and producing superhero movies and spoofs, often both, directing the Specials and writing Senseless and the last two Scary Movies. Superhero Movie is the natural and inevitable culmination of Craig Mazin’s career but it’s also the weakest of those movies to date. While Superhero Movie may be a world away from the completely disposable parodies like Date Movie, Epic Movie or Meet the Spartans, it’s also a world away from the classic Zucker comedies like Airplane and Naked Gun. Instead Superhero Movie’s closest cousins are the Naked Gun wannabes like Spy Hard that came out in the 90’s, movies that loosely try to spoof a genre but without the timing, energy or clever writing of the originals.
Superhero Movie begins with a dead on spoof of the overly dramatic opening credits of Spider-Man right down to having the hero shine the flashlight on his own chest. Unfortunately as the movie continues, it becomes more and more obvious that rather than a parody of superhero movies, Superhero Movie is primarily a parody of Spider-Man and Craig Mazin’s idea of parodying Spider-Man involved remaking Spider-Man on a smaller budget and throwing more jokes into the mix. There is the Batman flashback and a pretty funny X-Men interlude but mostly it’s a scene by scene remake of the first Spider-Man movie with occasional pop culture references thrown in.
Superhero Movie isn’t anywhere as bad as Meet the Spartans, it has its genuinely funny moments but they’re too thinly spread on the ground and while pros like Leslie Nielsen and Jeffrey Tambor have bulletproof timing, the younger cast members mostly flail around aiming for comedy and hitting empty air. There’s enough here to remind you of Airplane but not enough to actually make you laugh the way you did at Airplane, especially since those gags have become comedy staples long ago.
After Meet the Spartans it seems strange to complain about a spoof movie having too much of a plot, but Superhero Movie is more narrative than comedy and that might have worked if it hadn’t been borrowed narrative that we’re a little too familiar with. Only the final showdown at the Humanity Awards breaks the cycle and it’s in those moments when Superhero Movie steps away from aping Spider-Man, such as the introduction of Stephen Hawking who provides some of the movie’s funniest lines, that Superhero Movie comes closest to its potential. Craig Mazin admires the Zuckers but their movies didn’t regurgitate another movie’s plot wholesale and that’s exactly what Superhero Movie does. So much so that at times it’s unclear if Craig Mazin is trying to make a spoof movie or is trying for a superhero movie of his own.