'Superman Returns' doesn't fly


The best comic-book movies and fantasy films have spoiled us. They've already given us a sublime comedy-drama about a lovelorn superhero in Spider-Man 2 and a religious fable with energy as well as allegory in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Compared with them, Superman Returns is slavishly reverential and morose - The Passion of the Christ from Krypton, with a sad, erratic pulse. (In its defense, it does have a subtly retro, illuminated-manuscript kind of beauty.) The film, which opens tonight at select theaters and tomorrow nationwide, presents the Man of Steel as a messiah from the pages of The Da Vinci Code. Its one good running joke is the way everyone wonders how far Lois Lane went with the big guy in the past, when she spent the night with him. Too much of the rest plays like a near-death experience.

Superman Returns (Warner Bros.) Starring Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, Frank Langella and James Marsden. Directed by Bryan Singer. Rated PG-13. Time 154 minutes.

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