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Super (Blu-ray Review)

29 Jul, 2011 By: John Latchem

Street 8/9/11
Box Office $0.3 million
$24.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, sexual content and drug use.
Stars Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Nathan Fillion.

It’s Super. Thanks for asking.

Director James Gunn’s subversive take on the superhero genre lovingly skewers the concept of costumed vigilantes by literally taking us into the mind of someone who would choose that path.

In Super, the subject is Frank D’Arbo (played by a perfectly cast Rainn Wilson of “The Office”), a fry cook at a two-bit diner whose wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a local mafioso (Kevin Bacon).

Frank isn’t the archetypal hero, and in fact might be a little crazy. That’s where the casting of Wilson is so key since he is so good at infusing his awe-shucks appearance with a hint of psychotic fury. In this case, Frank has a vision of “the finger of god” cutting into his brain to inspire him to emulate a TV do-gooder named The Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion), a Christian superhero who fights a minion of Satan and warns kids about the dangers of premarital sex.

So Frank dubs himself the Crimson Bolt, dons a red jumpsuit and takes to the streets, establishing a routine that usually involves thwacking a criminal with a wrench and then standing over their body and shouting “don’t steal,” “don’t molest kids,” “don’t cut in line,” etc. A few well-placed graphical sound effects inspired by the 1960s “Batman” TV show are a nice touch as well.

Frank’s actions catch the attention of a local comic book store cutie (Ellen Page) who dubs herself Boltie, wants to be Frank’s sidekick, and may be crazier than he is.

Super is not the first film to explore the idea of regular people trying to be superheroes, but it’s also one of the few that isn’t shy about laying out the consequences of the fact that they’re in way over their heads.

The film has been widely compared to Kick-Ass, which begins in kind of the same place before taking a more conventional approach to its story arcs. Super, on the other hand, pushes the limits of the formula by applying a hard-edged reality to the scenarios it creates, exposing a humorous undercurrent.

For example, despite the ridiculous costumes (Crimson’s Bolt’s logo is a picture of his mask), everyone recognizes who they are anyway. The characters design weapons and armor for themselves, and then find them too unwieldy to be effective. (And somewhere the Mythbusters are smiling.)

The package of extras is pretty standard: a fun commentary with Gunn and Wilson; an 18-minute in-depth behind-the-scenes documentary; a featurette about the making of the animated title sequence; and a deleted scene between Wilson and Tyler that was cut for pacing.

But the standout is the quirky “How to Fight Crime” featurette filmed at the South by Southwest film festival in Austin, Texas. In it, Crimson Bolt and Boltie (Wilson and Page in character) interview personal security expert Frank Corpus about how to deal with criminals. Boltie’s reaction to his response (he tells them to call 911 and leave crimefighting to professionals) is classic.

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