‘Superhero Movie’ spots the spoof

If you’re a fan of the Naked Gun, Scary Movie and Airplane sendups, as I am, then you know that low-rent, low-brow silliness aimed at genre conventions can be as funny as many big-budgeted Hollywood movies (The Love Guru, anyone?).

That’s not to say Dimension’s Superhero Movie, new on DVD Tuesday, isn’t more of a cliche than a clobberin’ time triumph, but its very familiarity (the lovably deadpan Leslie Nielsen) and its worthy targets make it nutty and funny enough in its unassuming, minor-cast way — though a little late in the game given its slavish devotion to 2002’s first Spider-Man. That puts it almost as behind the curve as Spaceballs was to Star Wars — well, six years late, compared to Mel Brooks’ 10.

Nonetheless, Superhero Movie is an enjoyable enough spoof, and it’s reasonably well produced for this sort of thing, unlike the painfully plodding 305, also reaching DVD Tuesday, and its leaden lunacy aimed at 300. Granted, 305 was shot waaaay on the cheap, but there are limits.

Best of all for Superhero Movie and fans of spirited spoofs, this film is rippling with one especially good guilty pleasure — and I do mean guilty.

We’re talking Robert Joy, lately of CSI: NY, as Dr. Stephen Hawking, a wheelchair-bound paralyzed scientist who’s very much supposed to be confused with the real and revered physicist of the same name.

This type of comedy requires running jokes like we all require running water, and Joy’s Hawking provides the best of them, whether revealing his leering lustfulness inappropriately, or getting bashed and banged around — even stung by a swarm of bees — when his wheelchair is sent careening off-course — calamaties always followed by his monotone machinelike voice repeating curse words dispassionately.

Now, this is a guilty pleasure for a very good reason: Hawking is a great man, and we shouldn’t find humor in his affliction. But one of the functions of nonsensical films like this is to take you away from reality with its sheer zaniness, so it’s not as if we’re laughing at Hawking so much as laughing at the dark humor derived from his surrogate’s fanciful discomfiture.

I know, I know — that doesn’t get us — or me, at least — off the hook. But again, it’s Joy who provides the joy of that footage, not the thought of a truly great man truly suffering in any way.

There — I feel better. Guilty pleasure conquered. Now where’s that parody of Mother Teresa?



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