Super Is Schlock-Satire That Manages to Be Both Clumsy and Annoying

In Super, which opens this weekend, when a local crime boss (Kevin Bacon) lures away his wife (Liv Tyler), lifelong pushover Frank (Rainn Wilson)--under the influence of a bizarre Christian kids' TV show and a sci-fi-style encounter with something like God--starts to make himself over into a real-life superhero.

On discovering that the weird guy who frequents her comic-book store is, in fact, the masked man making his way into the papers as the Crimson Bolt, young nerd Libby (Ellen Page) insinuates herself as his sidekick and would-be girlfriend.

Super writer/director James Gunn (scripter of the Scooby-Doo movies, the

auteur behind Slither) launched his career working for Troma, and the

best bits of this fanboy culture decon job bare the unmistakable trace

of the venerable no-budget brand behind socially engaged schlock-satire

such as Poultrygeist and The Toxic Avenger.

Conceptually similar to last spring's bullied-teen-dons-tights-to-fight

flick Kick-Ass, Super distinguishes itself with a deliberate tonal

unevenness that's unsettling and annoying. By foregrounding the

problematic muddling of fantasy and reality inherent in his premise,

Gunn successfully shifts between celebrating violence and mourning it,

but his handling of emotional evolution is clumsier. He seems

particularly out of his depth in the film's mawkish ending.

But Page is a revelation: There isn't another gorgeous twentysomething

actress working today who could more convincingly reveal sexual bravado

to be simultaneously silly and creepy.

--Karina Longworth

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