Monday, August 10, 2015

Project Tremendously Irritating: Super Capers: The Origins of Ed and the Missing Bullion

Welcome back to Project Terrible! My final film this round comes from Maynard of Maynard's Horror Movie Diary.

Super Capers: The Origins of Ed and the Missing Bullion is a 2009 parody of superhero films. Holy crap, it kind of jumped the gun, didn't it? Just think how much more material it would've had to work with a few years later!

Okay, to be fair, there were already a lot of superhero films released before the current Marvel crop, and even Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk were out the year before this, but...seriously, you have to kind of be kicking yourself when you decide to make a superhero parody and then in the next few years you get a whole slew of extra material you could've used.

Not that Super Capers would probably have used it well anyway, but whatever.

Okay, let's start from the beginning. Super Capers: The Origins of Ed and the Missing Bullion is a parody of superhero films which concerns Ed Gruberman, a wannabe superhero with no powers who runs into trouble with the law and gets assigned to the superhero training program, Super Capers, with other misfit heroes. They've got a telekinetic whose powers only work if he makes sound effects for them (except when the movie seems to forget that), a Superman-style character whose weakness is being called old or fat, a guy (played by the writer/director) whose only power is blowing up like a puffer fish when he's scared, a scientist who calls himself Q and only makes gadgets blatantly ripped off from movies, a robot whose voice is a horrid Arnold Schwarzenegger impression, and a girl who creates ice who...really doesn't seem to have any problems at all with her powers, so I'm not sure why the heck she's in the program. Together, they learn to use, I'm kidding. They engage in poor comedy and end up confronting a spectacularly braindead conspiracy that only works at all because Ed is catastrophically stupid.

This is a very annoying movie. I'm not sure I can call it outright bad. It's just...annoying. Irritating. Okay, yeah...bad. But bad in a different way than a lot of other bad films I've watched. It's not incompetent--it was meant to be like this. They intentionally made the film this way. I think that's actually worse.

There's very little this film outright does well--I guess I can compliment it for at least getting basics right, and I can't really insult the actors, as for the most part they're clearly just doing as they're told and it's really kind of the point that the film's a cheesy and clumsy mess. So...I'm just going to leave that there, and move on to what the film's main problems are.

1. It isn't funny.

That right there? That's failure for a comedy. Oh, sure, there's one or two jokes here and there that got a chuckle out of me--it isn't a trainwreck on the order of Harry Knuckles and the Pearl Necklace. isn't funny. Jokes are entirely obvious and therefore dull, parodies that don't fit and therefore dull, chuckle-worthy but then overplayed and therefore dull, chuckle-worthy but then expressly pointed out and therefore dull, or just plain entirely stupid and pointless and therefore dull. Or some mix of the above. That bit about the film pointing out its own jokes? Yeah, that's the most annoying part. Ed has an inner monologue throughout a lot of the film, and sometimes it'll just outright ruin what might've on some level been at least a decent joke by pointing it out. Sometimes characters just go ahead and do that in the standard dialogue, too. But really...very little of the film's humor actually works, and what does is not nearly enough to carry the film.

2. It doesn't really do that much with superheroes.

This is far more on point than, say, The Starving Games and other "parodies" of that ilk, but it still doesn't really use the source material all that well. It's hard to really describe...there are superhero jokes in here, but there aren't really interesting superhero jokes in here. I mean, you've got the Superman character who ends up being useless at points, but...why is it "you're old" and "you're getting fat" jokes that are his weakness? And why is that pretty much the only joke with him? And why does it only actually work against him once or twice, but inspire him to absolutely demolish someone another time? If that's his kryptonite, effectively, it should always work--Superman doesn't get stronger sometimes when he encounters kryptonite, you know?

Okay, there's the different strange varieties of kryptonite. Shut up, Al. You know what I mean.

This guy's power is super-speed. His name is Captain Sludge. I have no idea why.
Otherwise...where are the jokes, really? I it that much of a joke that the telekinetic guy has perfectly decent powers but just has to make noises to feel right using them? The ice girl basically has no jokes about her. What is the joke about the puffer fish guy, other than that he's a scaredycat? There's a little parody of the old time 1940s serials or the 1960s Batman stuff, but...not much, really (by the way, Adam West puts in a little cameo in this, poor guy).

Also, when you're clearly parodying the 1960s Batman show at one point and you have Adam West in your film, why is he not playing that character? Why is he just a taxi driver in a car styled after the old Batmobile?

Anyway...the point is, this film just doesn't really use the source material near as much as you'd think. You could do a lot with superheroes who aren't that good at using their powers getting into trouble because of it. Instead, there's more jokes about the inventor's movie-based technology and how it might or might not work than there are about powers or...really any of the other elements of superhero movies. Back to the Future gets a lot of jokes directed at it, actually--the theme, or an approximation of it, gets played a few times, even! Probably because Sam Lloyd, who played the telekinetic, is Christopher Lloyd's nephew.

You'd think you would've made him the scientist, then, but then they couldn't parody Q from the James Bond franchise. Why they wanted to do that, I don't know.

Also, why is there a minotaur?
3. Laughing at its own jokes / sound effects

This goes back to "it's not funny" a bit, but it really does bear mentioning. Super Capers spends a lot of time kind of trying to convince you that it is really awesomely hilarious. It doesn't have a laugh track, but between Ed's comments, the character's sometimes-knowing reactions, and a wide collection of inappropriately-used sound effects, it pretty clearly thinks that it's the best thing to ever happen to comedy. It can't let a joke just lie--it has to point it out and yell "look at that! Isn't it the best joke ever?"

4. The title

Here's another look.
I actually have to call this out, because this is just so stupid. This is a parody of superhero movies, but its title is...well, look at this! Here's a list of superhero films I can think of off the top of my head, just using ones that would've been released before this film. Notice a pattern?

  • Superman
  • Superman II
  • Superman III
  • Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
  • Batman
  • Batman Returns
  • Batman Forever
  • Batman and Robin
  • The Shadow
  • The Phantom
  • Spider-Man
  • Spider-Man 2
  • Spider-Man 3
  • Iron Man
  • Hulk
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Batman Begins
  • The Dark Knight
  • X-Men
  • X2: X-Men United
  • X-Men: The Last Stand
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine
  • Fantastic Four
  • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
So, let's compare: Super Capers: The Origins of Ed and the Missing Bullion.

That sounds nothing like the films I listed, does it?

The list above almost entirely consists of titles that are composed of the hero or team's name. Sequels are mostly just numbers. Sometimes they get an additional word or two, but not usually much. THe lone real outlier is Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, which is a pretty lengthy title...but even then, it's really quite focused and compared to this film, brief. Meanwhile, this film's title is extremely long, tries to focus on three different things, and doesn't sound anything like the titles of the films that it is parodying.

Tiny Lister wishes he was back in The Dark Knight here...heck, he might even wish he was still back wrasslin' as Zeus!
Here's a collection of alternate parody titles that would be better:
  • Gruberman
  • Super Capers
  • Super Capers Origins: Ed
  • Super Capers: Rise of Gruberman
  • Gruberman Begins
Of all of those, I'd go with Gruberman. It's kind of funny to title the movie like that's actually his superhero name, and that's actually used as a joke a couple times in the film. It's also simple and focused, and even though this is a team movie, Ed is clearly the focus of the film and gets by far the most screen time, so making the movie "his" pretty well works. Plus, it's the one that just kind of calls out superheroes in general rather than expressly sounding like it's parodying one particular hero film. So I think it's the best...but really, any of those would be better than the title they used.

I know, I know, a lengthy discussion for something pretty minor, but really...if you're doing a parody, your title should actually sound like a parody!

5. Fight scenes

I get that this is a parody, but the fight scenes are awful even by parody standards. Could you not teach people how to do some decent fighting or at least some fun slapstick fighting? Half the "fight scenes" in the movie consist of precisely zero combat moves! There's only one fairly lengthy fight in the film, near the end of it, and...not much happens. Heck, the Superman-parody character just stands over near the van and lets the bad guys come to him (or rather, kind of wander by and then he grabs them). It just feels like this isn't particularly choreographed at all--it's like they just kind of told people to move around and scuffle a bit and they'd film it, for the most part. This is really a huge squandered opportunity for a film like this. Chaotic fight scenes are exactly what a superhero parody film should be doing! There's no better opportunity for superheroic humor--mishaps with powers, terrible fight strategies, bizarre weaknesses, lots and lots of collateral damage that makes you wonder just who the bad guys are...throw all that in a blender and you can have a laugh riot. Instead, we just get kind of generic bits that barely have anyone using their abilities much at all.

Was it the effects budget? The budget for this actually seems...not great, but okay. Either way, look...if you don't have the budget to put even parody-level special effects in your film in more than a few places, do not make a superhero movie! At least not one with heroes with flashy powers. Parody Batman, or the Shadow...

...never mind. The Shadow's already been his own movie.

6. The Overall Plot

The plot of this film is just plain stupid. I know this is a parody, but come on! There's this insanely convoluted plan that makes absolutely no sense. I'm not going to bother discussing it in any real detail, because that would have to involve spoilers and because I really don't want to hurt my brain thinking about the myriad ways the villain's plan just...doesn't work, but suffice to say that the villain of the film has a plan that only works because Ed is not only a complete and total moron, but he's a complete and total moron in some extremely specific ways. Additionally, said plan is entirely unnecessary--the villain could easily take alternate actions early in the film that would likely lead to precisely the result he wants.

Look...Super Capers: The Origins of Ed and the Missing Bullion is just plain irritating to watch. I've said it before and I'll say it again: bad comedies are the worst kind of bad movie, because the reason you might want to watch a bad film is that it'll be funny, but bad comedies are bad at being funny. The rule still applies here. Do not waste your time.

The guy on the right does a half-decent Agent Smith impersonation, except when he forgets, which is often. The guy on the left goes "Yeah" a lot and gets yelled at by the guy on the right. This is, apparently, funny.

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