⭐ ⭐ / ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Eight year old Billy’s parents are in the middle of a custody battle over who gets the dogs when the couple inevitably divorce, a sort of canine postnup, and in the words of his psychologist, the anxiety this is producing causes him to act out in school. Playing lead in Shakesbeard’s “Brothello,” young Billy uses the power of Alexiard’s stump speeches to voice his decidedly anti-union opinions on homework and cooties.
The boy retreats into his room and his comics where hairy men in their underwear invade dangerous parking lots and sail through back alley desert plains, where singing dogs pilot hot air cocoons or whatever kids read about in funny books these days. His imagined world much safer than the unpredictable reality of his family, the colorful deeds of his heroes draw the boy further and further into fantasy.
Soon the child’s toys are brought to glorious life in the form of the titular Justice League, an assemblage of heroes from the pages of the comic books littering Billy’s room. There’s Strong Lady, Fiery Guy, Kid Robot, Mr. Hero, Great-Man, Angry Farmer and Dr. Armadillo, each with their own set of powers and code of ethics: Great-Man only slaps his adversaries while Strong Lady uses her speargun. Dr. Armadillo refuses to take a life but he’ll readily give one. Fiery Guy can burn anything (including people) but won’t hurt animals, often literally choosing mother nature over human beings. Kid Robot can lift 20 Saabs but needs help brushing his teeth.
Director Sammy Koufax (Bride of Frankenstein) has a story to tell somewhere, but you’ll have to squint awfully hard to see it underneath all the blur and whizbang razzle dazzle. An overload of cgi, every frame is bursting with needless, distracting details to ensure repeat viewings but you’ll feel beaten up by the end, tired-eyed and bleary-brained. Every time Fiery Guy speaks the sound fx guy thought the sound of tearing cloth and electrical sparks should accompany it, and Great Man can’t even turn his head without rattling the subwoofer. Odds are someone wanted his every blink to be heard.
There’s a telling moment when Kid Robot questions his prime directive, his raison d’etre, acting as voice for the rest of us when he asks, “Why am I here?” It’s beyond the scope of this review to fully answer that but a quick response would be “To sell toys?”
In fact the whole film looks like a toy commercial, what with its heroes’ stylized costumes and the almost fetishistic attention lavished on them by director Koufax, who wants everything outdoors lit with blue light and everything indoors green. Long lingering closeups on Dr. Armadillo’s rubbery black “fur,” the mercury glint of Kid Robot’s combobulator, and Mr. Hero’s diamond boxerbriefs ensure us that for Koufax (hopefully, at the insistence of the studio execs) looks are everything.
With an obvious preference for style over substance, the film takes great pains to make everything look perfect and sound “cool.” Pity they didn’t take those same pains to ensure the script was any good.
And best not to mention the inclusion of Angry Farmer, a Tin Age “hero” whose entire timeline had to be adjusted in order to co-exist here with Great-Man after their battle with Armageddon (see issues 77-79 of Awesome Great-Man).
The heroes assemble to take on the evil Pillow Trio, three oversized, understuffed cushions that threaten to smother everyone in Carpet Town, and Billy imagines himself right in the middle of it all, hiding under the bed in fear. While the climactic showdown is handled well and looks terrific, it’s too little too late. After, in the film’s only poignant scene, the child stands up triumphantly to high five the J League one by one, the heroes pretending not to notice his soiled pjs. It’s a mostly satisfying conclusion to a less than enjoyable effort by Koufax, who should perhaps stick to slapstick horror from here on out.
Movies like this are supposed to be fun and expensive looking, right? Well, Justice League is definitely one of those.
In theaters galaxywide.