'Super Capers'

A bizarrely misguided attempt to revive -- and spoof  -- the classic B-movie, "Super Capers" is the kind of experience that makes you want your 93 minutes back.

 A bizarrely misguided attempt to revive — and spoof — the classic B-movie, “Super Capers” is the kind of experience that makes you want your 93 minutes back. Though its nominal plot revolves around a would-be superhero’s attempt to rescue his dream girl, defeat a diabolical villain and solve the mysterious murder of his parents, the pic’s more compelling mystery is why it was made at all. Whether taken as tongue-in-cheek fanboy fodder or as a well-meaning “Watchmen” alternative, “Super Capers” crashes on takeoff.

From its opening sequence to its post-credits coda, “Super Capers” struggles to find its tone. Prologue features aspiring superhero Ed Gruberman (Justin Whalin) stumbling into a dark-alley mugging where he inadvertently fights off the wrong villain. A judge (Michael Rooker) finds him guilty of “superhero brutality” and sentences him to serve time at Super Capers, a sort of purgatory for superheroes-in-training.

He’s driven there in a Bat Cab belonging to a former superhero, Man-Bat (TV’s Batman, Adam West). On arrival, Ed meets a motley gang of dysfunctional crime fighters, including a big-headed telekinetic (Samuel Lloyd), a frosty beauty (Danielle Harris) and a human puffer fish (scribe-helmer Ray Griggs). Driving to their rescue missions in an oversized RV, the heroes attempt to defeat villains with psychic powers, icy rays, some luck and way too many bad jokes.

Throughout, Nathan Lanier’s music labors like Hercules on steroids to overcome (and distract from) the pic’s deficits and establish some sort of tonal continuity. There’s only so much a score can do, however, even one that’s performed by a full orchestra (the Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra is credited here).

Effective satire — as everyone from Jonathan Swift to Stephen Colbert understands all too well — is a tricky thing to execute. When the audience isn’t in on the joke, it’s almost unbearably uncomfortable, like watching a standup comic self-destruct onstage for well over an hour.

Despite a plethora of leaden gags, the pic does offer two decent, albeit incongruous, laughs: a dead-on Don Corleone impression by Whalin, and the whimsical inclusion of a “Super Capers” chili-pie recipe among the end credits.

Super Capers

Production

A  Roadside Attractions release of a PG Entertainment production. Produced by Ray Griggs, Reuben Lim. Executive producer, Michael Kim Binder. Directed, written by Ray Griggs.

Crew

Camera (color), Martin Rosenberg; editor, Stacy Katzman; music, Nathan Lanier; production designer, Scott Enge; art director, Nikki Rudloff; set decorator, Alys Thompson; costume designer, Francine Lecoultre; sound (Dolby Digital); Brian Sorbo; sound designer, Jeffrey Pitts; special effects supervisor, Chris Holmes; creature effects, Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr.; assistant director, T.K. Shom; casting, Joe Lorenzo. Reviewed at Wilshire screening room, Beverly Hills, March 16, 2009. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 93 MIN.

With

Ed Gruberman - Justin Whalin Dark Winged Vesper/Judge - Michael Rooker Will Powers - Ryan McPartlin Herbert Brainard - Samuel Lloyd Felicia Freeze - Danielle Harris Puffer Boy - Ray Griggs Red - Christine Lakin Captain Sludge - Jon Polito Man-Bat/Cab Driver - Adam West Mother - June Lockhart Agent Smith No. 1 - Doug Jones Mugger - Clint Howard Roger Cheatem - Tom Sizemore

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