SUPERCON Review: Flipping the Bird at Nerds

Standing in line for three hours to pay $100 for an autograph is more fun.

For those who recall the trailer for Supercon, all you need to know is that the movie lives down to the promise of that preview, and you’re free to go. For everyone else…

The fan-convention realm is ripe for either a scathing satire or a loving homage, but there isn’t a clever or affectionate bone in Supercon’s body. Instead, it revels in only the most obvious observations and ridicule, and attempts to wring most of its laughs from endless profanity and vulgarities, including numerous put-downs of women and references to male genitalia. Supercon was in the works quite a while before the events of last fall, but there was probably never a good time for a film set in the genre-fan scene to be made as a bro comedy.

The lead bro is Keith Mahar (Russell Peters), who has been just squeaking by in life by cashing in on nostalgia for his childhood role as Indian sidekick Haji in a cheesy ’80s show called Tex Johnson, U.S. Marshall. Tex himself was played by Adam King (Clancy Brown), who is now indeed a king of the convention circuit, and at a show in Louisiana, he subjects Keith to humiliating abuse. Some of this involves an undying rumor that Keith had testicular cancer, and Supercon’s idea of a running joke is people repeatedly addressing him as “ball cancer boy.” (The filmmakers drop in numerous jokes about testicles, though not half as many balls as it took them to have Keith complain that he’s only offered roles as terrorists and taxi drivers, not long after a string of racist jokes have been directed at a briefly seen Asian man.)

When King and conniving con promoter Gil Bartell (Mike Epps) have Keith and a few of his friends fired and banned from Supercon, they scheme to steal the big cash stash King and Bartell have amassed from overcharging for autographs and photo ops. (The idea of giving some of it back to the fans who’ve been fleeced occurs to neither the gang nor the screenwriters.) Keith’s cohorts include voiceover artist Matt Wheeler (Ryan Kwanten), Brock Hutchinson (Brooks Braselton), the fey former star of another vintage show called Downtown Crime, and the only female character of any consequence, comic-book artist Allison McNeely (Maggie Grace). Later in the film, Allison recruits fellow illustrator Sid Newberry (John Malkovich), who was once screwed over by King, to join the band; Newberry is a stoner, and it very much appears like Malkovich hit the weed for real to get through this role.

Director Zak Knutson, who scripted Supercon with Andy Sipes and Dana Snyder, once worked with Kevin Smith and created documentaries on the Marvel Universe, so it’s a surprise how little feeling the film has for geek culture. It’s packed with cheap stereotypes and a disdainful attitude toward the milieu; anyone who hasn’t been to a convention will likely come to the conclusion that they’d never want to after viewing this movie. At the same time, making any meaningful commentary on the scene is beyond the film; the event is simply a playground for annoying characters to flout unattractive attitudes for the first half. Once their heist plot is set in motion, Supercon bizarrely attempts a bit of sentimentality as Sid plays piano while Brock sings “Shine On, Harvest Moon” (WTF?); not long after, its true colors are flying again in a gross, endless bathroom scene that drenches Brock in feces.

The heist itself lacks pace and invention, and the wittiest homages the creators could come up with is people saying, “Come with me if you want to live” and “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” in rapid succession. There is just one genuinely funny visual joke incorporating cosplay when Matt first gets the idea for the robbery, and it’s the briefest suggestion of what might have been. Supercon may be set amidst people who frequent and enjoy these gatherings, but it doesn’t feel like it was made by them and it certainly wasn’t made for them. King’s parting shot is “Fuck the fans!” and by that point, it feels like he’s speaking for the movie as well.

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