Spaghettiman (2016) Review
Spaghettiman is an offbeat superhero story about a scruffy misanthrope who gains great superpowers of pasta. Yes, you read that right. He then charges citizens for his services because even superheroes have bills to pay. A wildly original concept and a nice shot in the arm for the genre, this is one truly strange and funny movie.
Clarke (Ben Crutcher) is going nowhere in life and has big plans to keep it that way. After eating two slices from a customer’s pizza on the way to her house (then trying to charge extra for the “Pac Man” special) he gets fired, which is fairly routine, and once again appeals to his roommate Dale (Winston Carter), a lovable, gullible, comic book loving desk jokey cop who is almost unbearably optimistic. Clarke tells Dale he’s not going to have the rent and it’ll be a while before he’s back on his feet so he shouldn’t harass him about it for maybe six or nine months because you know, a guy needs time. Clarke is not a likable fellow. And he really doesn’t care.
Then comes the leftover spaghetti he puts in the microwave before promptly falling asleep on the sofa while waiting for it to heat up. Much later, when he finally gets to eating it, well, you can guess what happens. It’s not called Spaghettiman because he can shoot broccoli out of his hands. Clarke becomes transformed into superhero and of course, with great power comes great responsi–er, great income. Clarke’s ability to shoot wet spaghetti into the faces of criminals isn’t seen as a chance to do good in the world but an opportunity to line his pockets. And line his pockets he does. Dale disapproves.
Directed by Mark Potts, (and written by its two leads) Spaghettiman is, despite its absurdity, very much just like a real superhero film because what’s so different between a teenager who can sling spider webs from his wrists and a loser who shoots cooked pasta from his palms? Well, maybe a lot. But that doesn’t mean it can’t play with the tropes and do it oh so very well. How? Commitment. What might seem like enough material only for a 3-minute sketch is surprisingly deep with a story that not only finds good use for the lamest of superheroes but its supporting characters as well, who all find ways to spin their own comedy gold. With a razor-sharp script and a terrifically deadpan (often laugh-out-loud) comedic performance by Crutcher, this is a seriously fun time.
The nods and winks to the genre are everywhere, along with some very clever bits, like how Dale is a comic book fan with a house decorated with paraphernalia and even a number of colorful Lucha libre masks but Clarke (whose very name is meant to conjure thoughts of Superman’s alter ego) is inspired by none of it, instead using a torn paper bag for the top part of his admittedly unimaginative costume. Designing a costume would just be, well, effort. And yet, this is not really a Deadpool-ish satire of the superhero movie, but rather a film made by people who are fans and recognize that even a good thing has its limits. While there’s little inclination that hidden beneath the mounds of wet noodles there is a greater message or metaphor to be discerned, there is great effort to give this story some weight, and it’s a real testament to the filmmakers and actors to how compelling it is to keep watching.
That said, and as funny as it is, it feels almost like it could have been more, as if the concept itself had larger untapped potential. Maybe that’s a credit to the writing, which finds a lot of nuance in a genre where nuance isn’t typical. To be sure, this isn’t a big budget visual effects production so there are none of the extended fight sequences that fill the gaps in superhero movies to distract viewers from the lack of substance. That leaves the actors and the writing to carry us through, and sure, some of it is awkward, but somehow, given the character of Clarke, and his wholly unfiltered approach to his own selfish needs, it works. Crutcher manages to twist nearly everything he does into inspired lunacy, from his efforts to haul a resistant wheel chair-bound young man up a flight of stairs to an epic song about twins to a pregnant mother. It’s weirdly subtle yet unabashedly hysterical. You may root for your Iron-Mans and Hulks as they battle world-in-danger alien attacks, but you won’t laugh as hard until you see scrawny Spaghettiman barter with a car owner for money after he caught a car thief and bound her up with a noodle.
Spaghettiman deserves a seat at the superhero table, and in its own sort of silly and peculiar way, is a refreshing slice of fun that sneaks up on you while you’re watching, and you realize this is actually a really good time. Coming soon to VOD and select theaters, this is a pre-release review.
Director: Mark Potts
Writers: Winston Carter, Ben Crutcher
Stars: Ben Crutcher, Winston Carter, Brand Rackley