Slither writer-director James Gunn channels at least a pinch of the soul-searching presumably born of his own off-screen divorce into Super, a self-reflexive, character-based, superhero spoof passion project that has some colorful moments but doesn’t fully and smoothly embrace the provocative nature of its premise.
The Office‘s Rainn Wilson stars as Frank Darbo, a fry cook and sad-sack loser who goes into an emotional tailspin when his ex-addict wife Sarah (Liv Tyler) slips up in her recovery and takes up with the sleazy Jacques (Kevin Bacon). Determined to both win her back and, vaguely, defend the sullied natures of right and justice, Frank works up a costume and starts parading around as Crimson Bolt, cracking offenders over the head with a wrench and spitting out awkward rejoinders like, “Shut up, crime!” Along the way he picks up a sidekick in the form of a spritely comic book store employee, Libby (Ellen Page), who’s sexually charged up by his vigilante ways.
Gunn seeds his movie with some weird, surprising and/or intense moments, but grossly overestimates the innate charm and hold of certain story strands. He’s also a subpar director, even working with obviously limited means. A kind of shrugging, slapdash, just-good-enough ethos — a residual effect of Gunn’s Troma days — lingers here, unfortunately. A tighter, even more emotionally inquisitive script and either more florid, over-the-top or entirely deadpan direction would have benefited this material, and taken it places its premise seems to augur. As is, however, the movie is half-sketched. Still, Page’s gleefully deranged performance — so beautifully unsafe, and lacking in preciousness — helps make Super a somewhat interesting misfire. (IFC Films, R, 96 minutes)