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Super: Film Review

The Bottom Line

A seriously twisted, ridiculously amusing entry in the DIY superhero genre that finally gets it right.

Opens:

April 1 limited (IFC Midnight)

Venue:

Toronto International Film Festival

Director

James Gunn

Cast:

Rainn Wilson, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Ellen Page

"Super" is a giddily over-the-top, super-entertaining goof on the Everyman crimefighter flick written and directed with evident relish by James Gunn.

Originally published on Sept. 12, 2010.

The market hasn't exactly been hurting for backyard superheroes over the past year, what with the likes of "Kick-Ass" and "Defendor."

But they're lame imposters next to "Super," a giddily over-the-top, super-entertaining goof on the Everyman crimefighter flick written and directed with evident relish by James Gunn.

While Rainn Wilson, taking "Office" leave, strikes the perfect pushed-to-the-brink tone as a short-order cook-turned-masked avenger, the film's true secret weapon is awesome Ellen Page as a comic book nerd-turned-way overzealous sidekick.

If a potential distributor is concerned that the picture might be a bit late to the rescue, given the less-than-boffo fate of those previous entries, they wouldn't have needed super-hearing to detect the buzz generated at its world premiere over the weekend, screening in the fanboy-centric Midnight Madness section.

When his hot, reformed drug addict wife (Liv Tyler) falls back into the clutches of her sleazoid drug-dealing former boyfriend Jacques (Kevin Bacon), Wilson's Frank D'Arbo goes from zero to, well, not exactly hero, donning a patched-together red costume and telling crime to "shut up" while in the guise of Crimson Bolt.

He may not have any powers, per se, but he does wield one fierce monkey wrench that does serious damage to any evildoer that may cross his path on the way back to Sarah.

Still determined to up his game, Frank consults with Libby (Page), a comic book store clerk who convinces him that what he really needs is a trusty sidekick, and, after auditioning several different monikers, eventually settles on Boltie.

Page is an absolute delight in both guises, but her Boltie's a real blast -- a gung-ho dynamo given to laughing maniacally while bashing in a supposed bad guy.

While Bacon brings home the necessary sleaze, also amusing are Michael Rooker as his right-hand thug and Nathan Fillion as an evangelical TV crimefighter called The Holy Avenger.

Filmmaker Gunn, who previously spoofed creature features with the well-reviewed but disappointingly performing "Slither," really goes in for the satirical kill here, with a take-no-prisoners tone -- and a generous amount of exaggerated "RoboCob-style" ultra-violence -- that deserves to realize its cult calling.

Venue: Toronto International Film Festival 
Production companies: This is That, Ambush Entertainment

Writer-director: James Gunn
Cast: Rainn Wilson, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Ellen Page
Executive producers: Rainn Wilson, Lampton Enochs, Matt Leutwyler 
Producers: Miranda Bailey, Ted Hope
Director of photography: Steve Gainer
Production designer: William A. Elliott
Music: Tyler Bates
Editor: Cara Silverman
Sales agent: HanWay Films
No rating, 96 minutes