Frank D'Arbo (Rainn Wilson) gets left by his drug addict wife (Liv Tyler) for a douchebag drug dealer that no one would ever date (a wonderfully hammy Kevin Bacon). So for some reason D'Arbo decides to suit up and be a superhero to get her back. But then he spends most of the movie just fighting random crime that has nothing to do with his wife. It's cool though, he ends up trying to get her in the end. James Gunn wants to focus on throwing his particular brand of outlandish, grotesque humor at the audience, like he so wonderfully did in Slither and his PG Porno internet series, but then he tries to give the film heart and emotion. This is where it completely falters and the whole thing ends up feeling like a really cheap, unevenly toned mess.
No matter what you're expecting this movie to be like, you're wrong: every ten minutes, like clockwork, it changes gears unexpectedly and bucks the audience. It defies categorization, seeming to take delight in confusing its viewers. The similarities to Kick-Ass are there, with the nerdy DIY superhero learning the world's a pretty dirty place after dark, but Super also manages to be as gratuitously gory and continuously off color as a Troma film. Its awkward timing and confounding sense of humor, though, make comparisons to both styles less apt. By the climactic, explosion-filled finale, its transgressions from goofball comedy to creepy drama leave its viewers debating whether they want to laugh or cry. An intensely uncomfortable experience you'll either love or hate.
I didn't like it.
I mean, don't get me wrong, there are some genuinely hilarious scenes and Ellen Page is an absolute delight in a role entirely different from anything she's done so far, but the whole thing just feels off. Rainn Wilson is likable enough on The Office, but the guy just can't carry an entire film by himself and the supporting cast feels like they belong in a whole separate movie. The entire thing feels like it has no focus and the motivations of characters jump all over the place, never letting the viewer immerse themselves at all. One second our main character is all about getting his wife back, then he's just fighting insignificant crime that means nothing to the actual story, then he completely switches focus back to his wife. Just like the film itself, the guy has no focus and, despite some hilarious moments, it never gives the audience a good idea of what it actually is. It feels like something a couple of college kids threw together in a week and put online.
Nathan Fillion and Linda Cardellini are wasted as their collective parts last about 3 or 4 minutes. They shine when either is on the screen. Kevin Bacon is fantastic and Liv Tyler does a nice job. I was happy to see Michael Rooker as well. It disappointed me that the writers appeared to have a thought toward giving his character some depth and then pulled the rug out from under him. I was able to assimilate Ellen Page's incredibly over the top portrayal of a wannabe sidekick even with her undesirable characteristics, until it got too "real." Overall, this movie's message is simply not strong enough and seems to only act as bookends for the movie as a whole. The plot and events in between do not communicate that message and so it doesn't really pay off. This viewer was left feeling embarrassed for laughing at some of the earlier parts in light of the last half hour. Not a superhero genre movie and not strong enough to be a social commentary.
I wanted to like this film because it was trying to be different and it had a good premise, but it went way too far. It tries to be too different, and it can't decide what it wants to be.