After more than a decade in development (in which the project was linked to everyone from Kevin Smith to Brett Ratner), “Superman Returns” finally arrives in theaters - with somewhat middle-of-the-road results.
While I will concede that this installment is a vast improvement over the last two films in the series, “Returns” lacks the zing that helped last year's “Batman Begins” re-energize that sagging franchise.
The movie begins with the Man of Steel returning to earth after a long visit to what was left of his home planet Krypton.
Superman (Brandon Routh) soon discovers that Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has moved on - with a young son and a new love interest.
But some things haven't changed - namely Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey). The evil mastermind hasn't forgotten the Man of Steel and is determined to exact revenge - concocting a plan that he hopes will destroy Superman forever.
Director Bryan Singer did a really good job with the first two “X-Men” movies and has a keen eye for action in “Superman” as well - a scene involving a plane spiraling toward the earth is the film's best.
Spacey is so good as Luthor that I wished he had more screen time. Parker Posey is a bonus as Luthor's girlfriend. Routh is adequate, but won't make anyone forget Christopher Reeve, while Bosworth just can't capture the Lois Lane character as well as Margot Kidder.
But the biggest problem with “Superman Returns” is the script, which bogs down in the love story and forgets the action - which should be the strong point. What made the first two Reeve “Superman” films work was their ability to see everything with tongue firmly in cheek. This version takes everything way too seriously, leaving me begging for Spacey to remind everyone this isn't supposed to be “The Lake House.”
Here's hoping that the sequel (and it is clear that there will be one) returns Superman to much more entertaining territory.
DVD dandy of the week
This week's dandy is “Find Me Guilty” (B+), a quality courtroom drama from the great director Sidney Lumet that features the shocker of shockers - a good performance from Vin Diesel.
Based on a true story, “Guilty” centers Jack DiNorscio, a mobster who defended himself in the longest mafia trial in U.S. history.
DiNorscio's defense is unconventional, at times offensive, but it manages to be effective enough that it just might sway the jury.
Diesel has been buried in mediocre action films for so long, it's nice to see that he can still manage to deliver a performance when given the right material. The actor manages to make this rather sleazy guy somewhat sympathetic.
Lumet is right at home in the courtroom, with a resume that includes “The Verdict,” “Dog Day Afternoon” and the underrated “Q & A,” and he does another masterful job of keeping the film flowing at a reasonable pace.
There is nice supporting work as well from Peter Dinklage as the lawyer of one of the other defendants and Alex Rocco as the head of the crime family.
“Find Me Guilty” didn't get a lot of attention when it was released in March, but it is a smart film that deserves to find an audience on home video.
“Find Me Guilty” is rated R for strong language and some violence and is now available on DVD.
In last week's review of “Nacho Libre” I said that Hector Jimenez played Pedro in “Napoleon Dynamite.”
A couple of readers e-mailed me noting that Pedro was played by Efren Ramirez, not Jimenez.
My apologies to Ramirez, who obviously had enough sense to stay away from a terrible project like “Nacho Libre.”
At the movies
Starring: Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Rating: PG-13 for some intense action violence
Playing at: Great Escape 12, Highland Cinemas (Glasgow)