Here we go…
Remember the 1984 Supergirl movie? I was in the second grade when it came out. I only got to see it once when it was released on VHS, but I had the Scholastic storybook of it, and I thought it was all pretty cool. Teenage girl becomes superhero, defeats the evil sorceress, and scores a few kisses with the adorable landscaper everyone else is gaga for. And she’s Superman’s cousin. What’s not to like?
Fast-forward to this century. I had just watched Chris Stuckmann’s Hilariocity review of the movie, in which he basically carved Supergirl into tiny little bits. It got me thinking: Was this movie I had obsessed over as a second grader really that bad?
Well…yes. I’m going to really try not to parrot Stuckmann too much here, but it may be unavoidable. We’ll see.
The film starts in Argo City, which is a part of Krypton that broke off when the planet exploded. Now the city’s residents live in an utopia-type bubble in the middle of space, complete with iridescent beanbag chairs and shiny white everywhere. Among the carefree throng is Kara (Helen Slater).
Kara is wide-eyed and naïve to a fault, spending her days flitting around the city. Her best friend is Zoltar (Peter O’Toole) a guy who’s so cool he thinks he can borrow (Read: steal) the Omegahedron, one of the city’s vital power sources, and use it to light up his new tree sculpture. Someday, Zoltar tells Kara, he’s going to see real trees. He’s got a spaceship he’s going to cruise the binary chute in and from there it’s smooth sailing to Earth.
Getting back to the Omegahedron, it can bring things to life and give power surges to any magic wands it comes in contact with. Kara finds out the hard way when she animates a dragonfly she’s crafted with Zoltar’s wand, which then flies through the thin barrier protecting Argo City from the vacuum of space, sucking the Omegahedron with it. Kara almost gets pulled out too, but her parents grab her back and Zoltar closes up the hole.
Yup, Zoltar’s in big trouble, and while he’s arguing with Kara’s parents about the imminent danger awaiting Argo City, Kara climbs into the spaceship and follows the Omegahedron herself. After a quiet trip through the light show that is the binary chute, she pops out of a lake looking like Supergirl.
Too bad the Omegahedron gets there first. It lands in a bowl of lobster bisque, part of a picnic a guy named Nigel (Peter Cook) is having with Mommie Dearest, er, Selena (Faye Dunaway). The two of them have been together for who knows how long, but Selena isn’t satisfied. She dreams about taking over the world, and when this strange glowing orb falls into the lobster bisque, her ambitions seem reachable. She takes Nigel’s Buick and drives home to her abode at a literal house of horrors in an abandoned amusement park, where her roommate, Bianca (Brenda Vaccaro) is trying to figure out how to pay the bills.
Yes, the haunted house ride still works, if anyone is wondering. But the apartment also has a mortgage and a full kitchen, so it’s way less weird, right? Right?
Kara as Supergirl is still green as grass, although she takes to her new abilities pretty quickly. She knows she has to find the Omegahedron, and the only thing she has to go on is a bracelet Zoltar made for her, which lights up and pulses when her quarry is near.
In the meantime, though, she’s got to blend in, and when Kara spies a softball game at a girls’ school, she enrolls on the supposed recommendation of her cousin, Clark Kent. All of a sudden, Kara is an orphan, Linda Lee. She may seem average, except that she can add large complex figures at a moment’s notice. And she uses her heat vision to foil a plot by school bully Myra (Robyn Mandell) and her toadie, Muffy (!!!) (Jenifer Landor) to scald everyone in the shower.
Argo City is still in danger, though, and Kara as Linda begs off spending Memorial Day Weekend with her new roommate Lucy Lane (Maureen Teefy) so she can look for the Omegahedron. Meanwhile, Selena and Bianca are busy eyeing Ethan (Hart Bochner), the hunky landscaper, so Selena cooks up a love potion. She invites Ethan to the amusement park on the pretense of her lawn needing care, and then slips the love potion into his beer, Mickey-like. Selena is positive that once Ethan comes to, he’ll fall in love with her at first sight.
Ethan doesn’t stay put, though, and stumbles into town, where he causes quite the hullabaloo, and Supergirl has to rescue him from a rogue earth mover Selena sends after him. He doesn’t wake up until Supergirl becomes Linda, and of course the inevitable happens. Suddenly Ethan is a lovesick puppydog reciting poetry and bringing Kara flowers and chocolate.
Selena is livid and vows to take out both Linda/Kara and Supergirl. Bianca is baffled, calling Supergirl a “storm dragon.” Eh, really? What the heck is a storm dragon? Argh.
Long story short, Selena sends Supergirl to the Phantom Zone, makes Ethan her boy toy, and conjures a Gibraltar-like mountain with a gaudy palace on top of it, although not in that order. Supergirl being Supergirl, she claws her way out, but not before she reunites with Zoltar, a pathetic shadow of his former self who keeps offering her a “squirt” of whatever repulsive liquid he’s ingesting.
Golly, this movie. Let us count the problems. I think Stuckmann was bugged by different aspects of it than I was, but I have to echo his cringe all the same. I’ve certainly seen worse (*cough* Birdemic). The Salkynd brothers were clearly still in Superman III mode here, except that III had Richard Pryor. It’s just not meant to be taken at all seriously, and I don’t know if it was intentional or what. When a film’s archvillainess lives in an abandoned amusement park and her sidekick rolls into a scene in a dark ride carriage, nothing is going to have any gravity whatsoever.
First of all, the movie is. Two. Endless. Hours. Plus. Change. Long. If the whole point of the story was keeping Argo City from going dark, then a little urgency was needed, not to mention more deft writing. The school stuff and Ethan were there for the emotional resonance but they’re way too drawn out. It wouldn’t be so bad except that these characters don’t inspire any kinds of positive feelings. Ethan’s kind of a dope; Linda is scrappy but underdrawn, and some of Jimmy’s lines are laughable, like when he tells Selena she can’t mess with him because he’s a journalist (Errr…really?). It would have also helped if Kara could have shown some progression as a character, but that just isn’t there. She ends up only slightly wiser than she starts out, which makes the ending feel kinda blah.
Oh, and A&W clearly spent a pretty penny on this movie, with prominently featured logos everywhere. Linda’s classmates drink gallons of it, a sleazy truck driver has a logo tee, and there are ads for it all over the place. There were several vending machines at the school, too, one of which Supergirl conveniently crashes into during a confrontation with one of Selena’s creatures.
Speaking of Selena, her fixation on world domination is a little monotonous. OK, she’s focused, but the phrase “world domination” can only be heard so many times before Pinky and the Brain come to mind. On the plus side, since Faye Dunaway is a longtime veteran of bad movies, her turn as Selena sends Supergirl‘s kitsch value into the stratosphere.
Plus, the special effects are weird. In Supergirl’s first flying scene, the wires are ever so slightly visible. And there’s a confrontation with a monster at a crucial point in the film where Supergirl looks all weird and stretchy, yet her hair is still perfect.
Most of the comedy lands with a thunk because it’s so cliched. There’s one scene where Kara tries on one of Lucy’s bras over her school blazer. And she stuffs it with some panties. I know Earthling underwear was probably a strange concept for a Kryptonian, but it feels more Judy Blume than DC Comics.
The acting is either overdone or subpar, and Peter O’Toole fares worst of all. His character goes from saying “Zap!” and making wild gesticulations in Argo City to forlornly croaking “Squirt,” in the Phantom Zone. His character is a walking catchphrase, and anyone who has seen O’Toole knows he could do so much better. It’s as if the Salkynds wanted this movie to be a drinking game, preferably using A&W root beer.
So yeah, I keep thinking of that one episode of How I Met Your Mother when the cast all point out each other’s annoying habits, and every time the light dawns there’s the sound of glass shattering. That was me watching Supergirl after seeing Stuckmann’s review. Thank you, Mr. Stuckmann. You did me a favor. I will now file Supergirl under Guilty Pleasure. It’s probably one of the best Guilty Pleasure movies, but still a Guilty Pleasure. I’m really good with that.
More badness can be found at today’s recap post. Thanks for reading, everyone, and see you tomorrow with another turkey…