Predictable as it was by America's right-wing box-office seers, Stop-Loss' flat opening wasn't the only high-visibility stumble out of the gate last weekend. The Weinsteins' Superhero Movie barely cracked $10 million, a fraction of the early takes for previous installments of the lucrative spoof quasi-franchise that includes Scary Movie, Date Movie et. al. While immediate speculation focused on the impact of the threatened Fanboys Solidarity Movement boycott, we're quite fond of Steven Zeitchik's take both postulating the Bob Saget Rule and suggesting superhero movies are send-ups all their own:
Looking back at at the spoof hits over the decades, it seems that in order to work a genre has to be at just the right stage, developed enough to be ripe for satire but not so tired the genre has already begun poking fun at itself (see under [David] Zucker's 1980 Airplane, which came at just the right post-Airport moment).
The first part is probably why one-off hits can't be effectively sent up, as Bob Saget learned the hard way with his straight-to-video Farce of the Penguins. (And yet he never seems to learn...) The second part is why Superhero will eke out $40 or $50 million instead of twice that. Most actual superhero movies these days are post-superhero movies — see the self-mocking postmodernism in everything from Superman Returns to The Incredibles — so who needs a spoof?
Viewers' overall distaste for eighth-generation horseshit no doubt factors into this scheme of things, but we like where Zeitchik's theory is headed: the inevitable Movie Movie, an ultra-serious satire of what's quite literally the most earnest, least self-referential or ironic genre of films out there. There are no jokes, there are no sight gags and hopefully there aren't even actors — just trained animals braying in front of green-screen sets from previous spoofs. We smell box-office gold. In any case, it can't open worse than $10 million.