The Meteor Man (1993)PG

CapeCapeHalf a capeBalding headHalf a wrecking ball

This little movie is quite likeable. It’s a comedy about a mild mannered inner city substitute teacher who is granted super powers, and then learns how not to be so mild mannered that everyone walks all over him. Being invulnerable takes some getting used to... for instance, he can fly, but due to fear of heights he likes to stay within five feet of the ground. And then, once he’s gotten into it and started wiping out Communism in the hood, and made some very dangerous enemies, the super powers wear off...

Robert Townsend writes, directs, and stars. And the writing and acting is pretty good, though rumor has it the final cut was scrambled up somewhat and makes less sense than the original screenplay. I didn’t see much sign of random scrambling, though. And the cast is full of famous faces — about two thirds of the roles seem to have some well known performer doing a cameo. The cast is virtually free of white people, but Frank Gorshin is always fun... he plays the crime boss that the local gangsters report to. And the special effects are exactly as they should be: totally cheap.

The laughs are mostly of the low key sort, but the story is involving enough to compensate. A lot of comedies aimed at African-American audiences are high on silliness and low on believability, but not this one. There’s only one character that’s really an all-out buffoon. He’s played by — you won’t believe it until you see it — James Earl Jones. Townsend must have some heavy mojo to have gotten him to do that... or maybe Jones was tired of playing so many grim Thulsa Doom-ish roles all the time.

The story turns pretty serious after the super powers wear off and Townsend’s character has to face the gang without them... and yet the biggest laughs are in the action-packed confrontation. It would have been very easy for the laughs to have spoiled the suspense, or vice versa, but they both work.

And it’s kind of surprising, maybe even refreshing, to see a positive and liberal-minded film about the importance of community leaving us with a message that says it might be a good thing for citizens in bad neighborhoods to have lots of guns...

But what does John Stanley say?

(minimum rating is one star)  Excellent cast is wasted... the funniest moments are too infrequent, and come too late, to save the premise.