(In theaters, July 2006) Far from successfully reinventing this particular superhero franchise, Superman Returns made me realize how much I loathe the character of Superman. It’s not the goody-goody two shoe routine that gets to me as much as the character’s complete lack of self-awareness and emotional maturity. He’s either a well-meaning twelve year old or a retarded thirty-year old: not, in any case, someone you would feel comfortable saddling with a son and the responsibility to save the world. And yet the film skirts all around this issue, going so far as to give Superman a number of creepy peeping scenes and romantic moments that are fit to cause more discomfort than endearment. There’s small comfort to be found in the film’s lavish visuals or envelope-pushing effects: Once the character is found worthless, the rest of the film soon follows. Kevin Spacey is easily the most enjoyable character, but his Lex Luthor is saddled with the lamest evil plan ever deemed fit to figure in a blockbuster. The less said about Kate Bosworth’s wimpy character the better: her performance recalls not Margot Kidder, but Katie Holmes’s similarly-ineffectual performance in Batman Begins. Worse: the dumb-as-dirt script can’t effectively maintain suspension of disbelief as is flies from one bit of silliness to the next, flagrantly ignoring how people actually react and how things actually work. For the first time in a long while, I kept being thrown off the film by its casual disregard for physics, journalism or even common sense. Not that it does better in terms of pacing or originality: It’s a good thing that Superman can lift heavy objects, because all of the problems he faces in this film can be solved through that particular talent. It all adds up to a dull and vaguely insulting film, one that actually takes away from the Superman mythos more than it adds to it: By skirting closer to the edge of reality, director Brian Singer invites greater scrutiny that the film can’t sustain. Give me an op-ed page, and it will be titled “The World didn’t need this Superman, and it sure doesn’t need another.” Oh well; everyone who was waiting for this summer’s big blockbuster failure can now stop looking.