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" spawn " features good guys , bad guys , lots of fighting , bloody violence , a leather-clad machine gun chick , gooey , self-healing bullet holes , scatological humor and a man-eating monster .
it not only appears to have been tailor made for a swarm of 12- and 13-year-old boys , it appears to have been made by them .
in a classic example of telling and not showing , " spawn " opens with a truckload of mumbo jumbo about forces of darkness , forces of light and how " men are the ones who create evil on earth . "
so much for a message .
the movie then lurches forward into the plight of al simmons ( michael jai white ) , a government assassin/operative who is murdered by diabolical boss jason wynn ( martin sheen , who plays all of his scenes like an oscar clip ) while on a top secret mission in a north korean biological weapons plant .
simmons goes to hell and back , after making a deal with satan himself -- if he agrees to command the devil's army to overtake the world , he'll be allowed to return to earth to see his wife wanda ( underused theresa randle ) and little girl cyan ( sydni beaudoin ) .
of course , seeing as how five years has passed , wanda has fallen for -- and married -- simmons' partner ( d . b .
sweeney ) .
his , uh , shoulder to cry on comes in the form of clown ( john leguizamo ) , a disgustingly disproportioned minion of satan's .
clown manipulates simmons , now in superhuman spawn form , into a stand off with wynn .
wynn , who thinks he is in league with the double-dealing clown , recognizes spawn as a threat and undergoes an operation where a bomb is placed on his heart -- when it stops beating , major cities around the world will detonate , causing the leak of a disease that " makes the ebola virus look like a skin rash . "
phew . got all that ?
it would be easy to dismiss " spawn " as just another one of those heavy-on-fx , short-on-substance action pics , but it doesn't even work on that level .
the computer-generated sequences are often and plenty , and the problem is that they look too computer-generated .
the several scenes set in hell present a devil that looks and acts like a video game graphic -- with the movie's healthy budget you'd think they could have afforded to make his mouth move when he talks .
other elements of the movie are so-so ; spawn's enormous red , flowing cape is a wonderful sight , but it's too obvious when he's being played by a costumed actor or an image .
in movies like " contact , " the special effects serve the story .
in " spawn , " they are the story .
and spawn himself isn't even an interesting character .
the film's reliance on razzle-dazzle would be acceptable if we were given somebody to root for , but both simmons and his funky alter-ego are completely underdeveloped .
what we need is a batman , a luke skywalker .
even watching the adventures of kleenex man would be more interesting than spawn .
poor leguizamo .
he starred in february's " the pest , " a movie that i still think is the year's worst so far , although this one does give it a run for its money .
as clown , he overacts to the extreme , never missing an opportunity for a poor-taste punchline .
leguizamo farts green mist , munches a pizza slice covered with maggots and even dons a mini-skirt and performs a cheerleader routine , all before turning into a giant grey demon .
the guy was brilliant in " to wong foo , thanks for everything !
julie newmar . "
what is he doing wasting his talent in this and " the pest " ?
i'm one of the few people that liked " batman & robin , " this summer's other big-budget comic book film .
yet after catching this movie and making the inevitable comparison , i can only hope people will change their minds and think of " batman " as the superior adaptation .
there's a compelling story somewhere in " spawn " -- including strong religious overtones and the debut of the first african-american superhero ever -- but it's just not found anywhere near here .
as it is , " spawn " is just awful -- it stinks worse than a dead trout .