Super Capers (DVD)

Now served with Super Smoked Salmon.

The superhero spoof is a tricky thing to pull off. It seems like it would be easy, because there’s so much about the superhero genre that opens itself up to parody. The difficulty is that so many others have already poked fun at the usual superhero conventions, that there’s not much to do to make a new spoof feel fresh and exciting. Super Capers goes for the overly cartoony approach, in an attempt to come across like some sort of live action Looney Tunes cartoon.

Ed Gruberman (Justin Whalin, Dungeons And Dragons) wants to be a superhero, and he’s not letting his lack of powers or skills stopping him. After an encounter with a mugger, Gruberman is sued for “superhero abuse” and is sentenced to join the Super Capers, a group of other heroes-in-training. After surprising everyone—including himself—during the team’s first encounter with a villain, Gruberman starts to enjoy the hero’s life, including some flirtation with fellow crimefighter, Felicia Freeze (Danielle Harris, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers). When a figure from Gruberman’s past returns with malicious intent, he and all the other Super Capers have their lives on the line. It’ll take all of Gruberman’s strength and courage—and all of their 1980’s movie references—to save the day.

If there’s any question that Super Capers is intended for the age 10 and under crowd, those doubts will disappear in the first few minutes once the goofball humor starts. There’s a gag about a woman looking through her purse, pulling out all kinds of crazy comedy props that both would never be found a woman’s purse and would never fit in there. Then, when Gruberman makes his appearance, there are jokey “poink!” sound effects to match his facial movements. The scene ends with a sleazy lawyer and is a runner of typical “sleazy lawyer” jokes.

This is so-called “wacky” comedy, in the old-timey summer stock style. Slapstick, sight gags, puns, characters in embarrassing situations, and more. Oh, and 1980s movie references. Lots and lots of 1980’s movie references, especially Return of the Jedi and Back to the Future. Director Ray Griggs (Lucifer) is not shy about his love of the ’80s, and it shows. The characters even break the fourth wall to point out when they’re spoofing Return of the Jedi. Yeah, it’s that kind of comedy.

Super Capers is also family-friendly comedy; it even comes with a “family friendly” sticker on the slipcover. This means the jokes are of a kinder, softer nature, but it also means there are no cheap toilet jokes or cheap sex jokes, unlike some other so-called “children’s entertainment” out there. Alternatively, this also means a lot of the jokes are obvious, and most viewers, and no doubt a bunch of the kids, will see them coming from miles away.

Check out the great cast full of cult actors in this one. In addition to Whalin and Harris, there’s Adam West (Batman), Michael Rooker (Mallrats), Jon Polito (The Big Lebowski), Doug Jones (Hellboy II: The Golden Army), Tom Sizemore (Black Hawk Down), June Lockhart (Lost in Space), Tiny Lister (The Dark Knight), and Clint Howard (Apollo 13). The main cast features Ryan McPartlin (Chuck) as a self-centered celebrity hero, Samuel Lloyd (Scrubs) as a neurotic telekinetic hero, and Chrisine Lakin (Race to Witch Mountain) as a mysterious super-powered femme fatale. Such a talented and likable cast is really the best thing this movie has going for it.

For a silly superhero comedy, I’m afraid the movie drags at times. There are a number of dialogue scenes that seem to go on and on as the audience waits for something to happen. When the heroes head off for their first villain confrontation, we end up with all five heroes, two super-powered villains, a bunch of cops, and two other supporting characters. Instead of the big set piece, it gets awfully talky, and just seems to go on forever. In a movie like this, which is supposed to be non-stop laughs and action, this slow pace is a killer.

There’s a bizarre stretch in the middle of the movie in which Gruberman has the others convinced that he has a super power—the power of prayer. They mistakenly believe that he’s some kind of super-Christian, who smites villains with the hand of God. Even more bizarre, this makes him incredibly popular among the other heroes. Is this supposed to be a hilarious misunderstanding? Is it supposed to be inspiring somehow? I just don’t get it.

This movie is rich with bright colors, and they all jump off the screen on this DVD. The audio is nice as well, especially when the telekinetic character uses his powers and the sound of it booms through the rear speakers. The extras include an audio commentary with the director and two of the actors. They have a lot of fun riffing on their own movie and discussing the low-budget production. The featurette is standard EPK stuff, but it does contain some interesting behind-the-scenes footage. From there, we’re treated to some deleted scenes, trailers, and two looks at some cool original artwork created for the movie.

In the commentary, the director takes a shot at film critics, arguing that the Super Capers audience is young kids, and the movie was made with that in mind. He further alleges that the movie has been hugely liked by kids who’ve seen it. These are good points, and I won’t disagree about the kid appeal, but I still feel that there was potential here to make this OK movie much better. A few trims in the editing room and a few sharper lines of dialogue could have made all the difference.

The Verdict

If you have little ones who dig superheroes, give Super Capers a rental. For everyone else, guilty.

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