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Superhero spoof troubling flop

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Last weekend’s parody “SUPERHERO MOVIE” opened to a very very disappointing $9.5 million and its failure has spawned much commentary, including this from Steven Zeitchik:

There may be a more specific rule governing how and why a genre sendup succeeds, one that has more to do with the maturity of the original genre. Looking back at at the spoof hits over the decades, it seems that in order to work a genre has to be at just the right stage, developed enough to be ripe for satire but not so tired the genre has already begun poking fun at itself (see under Zucker’s 1980 “Airplane,” which came at just the right post-“Airport” moment).

The first part is probably why one-off hits can’t be effectively sent up, as Bob Saget learned the hard way with his straight-to-video “Farce of the Penguins.” (And yet he never seems to learn…) The second part is why “Superhero” will eke out $40 or $50 million instead of twice that. Most actual superhero movies these days are post-superhero movies — see the self-mocking postmodernism in everything from “Superman Returns” to “The Incredibles” — so who needs a spoof? Not to mention that the definition of a superhero movie is a lot more expansive these days, as likely to encompass an anti-hero like “Hellboy” as fearless fighters in cape and spandex.


PS: When we first typed that headline we inadvertently wrote “troubling slop.” Make of that what you will.

  1. Before we debate the ripeness of the genre for satire, etc., it might be useful to take a step back and consider the film in question. It looked lousy, the reviews have been lousy, and you can’t expect people to see lousy movies just because the actors are wearing spandex.

    It may be that the public would watch *a* superhero parody, but not *this* superhero parody.

  2. And don’t forget the boycott initiated against “Superhero Movie” by fans of “Fan-Boys” who want the original director’s cut in theaters, as opposed to the Weinstein Company’s version.

  3. Echoing Rich – it helps if the movie actually brings some humor to the table. A lot of these “parodies” I’ve seen rely on “this guy is dressed up just like that other guy in that movie OMG!” instead of actual jokes.

    I wish I could remember who said this, but someone made the great distinction between “aha” humor based on recognizing the reference versus “haha” humor based on real jokes and comedy.

  4. I think the point Steven is making is that some lousy parodies make huge box office hauls while others flop. Being a stinky cash-in has never stood in the way of success before. I honestly can’t see any difference between this movie and the dozen or so spoofs that came before it but those other films had much better opening weekends.
    I do not think Steven is making a case for the artistic merits of the film or the genre. In Hollywood success is measured in $$$. The rest is irrelevant.

  5. As the industry commentary shows, it wasn’t just that SUPERHERO MOVIE failed as lame satire, but that so many lame satires has done well before. Why THIS lame satire, why NOW?

  6. Plus, didn’t the same people already parody superhero movies somewhat in “Epic Movie”? I honestly don’t know, as I gave up on these “___ Movie” parodies after “Scary Movie 2” but I thought I remembered seeing “Superman Returns” parody stuff in the ads…

  7. Let me amend my “stinky cash-in” statement.

    Perhaps it was a stinky cash-in that nobody wanted to see this particular week in a great dead spot in the Hollywood premiere schedule. Perhaps the reliance on one-week totals, and indeed the system of distribution that we now “enjoy” where movies have a single shot to make themselves into hits or misses skews things, turning virtually every gimmick release into a game of Russian roulette. Perhaps everyone is sick of stinky cash-ins. Perhaps the superhero movie genre is dying and will take comics with it. Perhaps over analysis is taking place. Perhaps I’m really grumpy this morning.

  8. While the TV series THE TICK did a parody of the superhero genre, SUPERHERO MOVIE just steals shamelessly from Spider-Man and X-Men and adds fart jokes. I also don’t know how they got away with using actual character names from the X-Men (Professor Xavier, Storm, Wolverine) rather than parody names. In the end credits they have a scene with Wolverine where an X-Man with rolls of toilet paper for hands is wiping his ass. That’s the level of humor in this film from start to finish. I didn’t laugh once. There’s a good reason this wasn’t made available for reviewers to see. Thus reviews didn’t appear in newspapers until Monday morning, though probably sooner on line.

  9. Let’s just all hope that finally- FINALLY- people have come to realize how awful these “____ Movie” parodies are and that seeing one only encourages them to make more.

  10. I have an idea, maybe it just wasn’t funny. The whole parody movie thing is long past it’s due date and maybe just maybe no one wants to see this crap anymore.

  11. “Most actual superhero movies these days are post-superhero movies — see the self-mocking postmodernism in everything from “Superman Returns” to “The Incredibles” — so who needs a spoof?”

    that’s ridiculous. the Scary Movie films were hits, and their main source was the Scream franchise. few movies are as ‘self-mocking and postmodernist’ as those movies. a scary movie where everyone talks about scary movies

  12. “see the self-mocking postmodernism in everything from “Superman Returns” to “The Incredibles”

    I was angered by the Incredibles, because it was not self-mocking. It was just mocking. Non of it’s parodies were done with love of super-heros. They just pointed out how stupid they felt things were, while ripping off and poorly rewriting our greatest comic book stories. They stoled directly from Maxximmoral, Watchmen (a lot), and The Fantastic 4, and then presented it in a very snide manner. Sorry. I have strong feelings about that one, but I’ll stop myself from writing my essay on it here. It’s better as a drunken rant for chasing people away at Comic Con anyway. :)

  13. I didn’t see Incredibles as mocking at all. It was more like a loving homage using different enough characters. Hell, it was better than the actual Fantastic Four movie.

    Meanwhile, I had my hopes up for this one. I heard it might be more alone the lines of Airplane! than the other in this dismal series of ‘____ Movie’ movies. Sadly that doesn’t seem like the case.

  14. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t these movies all made by the same exact people? Are they not, in fact, the same exact thing done over and over?

    “Scary Movie”
    “Not Another Teen Movie”
    “Superhero Movie”

    What do these people expect?

  15. I like The Incredibles so much that I saw it 4 times in theaters because I knew I’d never see it on the big screen again. Snide? Not for a moment. If it were I’d have hated it. his film embraced superheros as something to admire, and portrayed those against heroes as being wrong-headed. Mr. Incredible was driven to help people. When he was forced to standby and see someone mugged, he lost it completely. The characterization in this film was so much better than the forced dialogue in the Fantastic Four movies. The CGI characters in he Incredibles were more real that the live action characters in the FF movies.

  16. Why pay for a ticket to shameless mockery when genuine comedy is around the corner.

    Labelling these types of films as satire or spoof is an insult to those terms. None of them come close to the quality of classics like Airplane. I do have to say that Meet the Spartans and Superhero have been just a bit better than the ones which were released in the previous couple of years.

  17. I don’t actually feel that strongly about it one way or the other anymore, but I do like to discuss these things (at cons) with people who will hear me, in person. It just seems to me that all the things people liked about The Incredibles where the things that were stolen from the comics I pointed out before. The central villain is a compilation of every comic book fan stereotype, which has then been ramped up, and set loose on the audience perception of a fanboy. Froze 0 and Mr. Incredible’s reminiscences of fights are about how fundamentally stupid the hero/villain conflict is. Don’t even get me started on how The Incredible family, including their children, kill people. Find me at comic con. I’ll be happy to talk about it more, then. I’m really friendly, even when you disagree with me.

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