Home Pge, Site Index, Search, Help

‘The Meteor Man’ (PG)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 06, 1993

The funniest scene in "The Meteor Man" occurs close to the end. But first, these words about Robert Townsend's new comedy: When timid D.C. schoolteacher Townsend gets hit by a burning meteor fragment, he attains temporary superhuman powers. Apart from the obvious ability to knock bad guys several feet into the air and to fly like Superman, he can also touch a book and instantly absorb its contents. The instant-knowledge effect only lasts 30 seconds but for a brief shining moment he's an expert.

Cut to the finale: Townsend, by this time known to all of Washington as the heroic Meteor Man, but running low on meteor power, is surrounded by the Golden Lords, a drug-running gang that has been terrorizing the city. Reaching into a pile of books that have cascaded from a mobile library, Townsend discovers Bruce Lee's handbook of self defense. Immediately he becomes a master pugilist, making high-pitched whoops and beating back the bad guys.

Later in the same scene, Townsend is face to face with gang leader Don Cheadle -- who has also acquired a little meteor power. Sifting desperately through the pile of books, Townsend can't find the Bruce Lee primer. To his horror, he pulls out "Ladies Runway Modeling Made Easy" instead. After absorbing this, he hurls the book at Cheadle -- which forces his opponent to absorb it also. Pounding runway music hits the soundtrack. A clash between supermen turns into a strut parade straight out of "Paris Is Burning," with heads held high and hands decoratively poised.

But then there's the rest of "Meteor Man." Diehard Townsend fans will probably have a good time with it. But they should probably stop reading from here: This review has nothing positive to add. For those who considered Townsend's "Five Heartbeats" at least four too many, this movie is only slightly less excruciating. Slower than a stationary bullet, about as powerful as a . . . a loganberry, capable of running into buildings in a single bound, it's a bust, it's a shame, it's super dull.

Filled with supportive or cameo appearances from James Earl Jones, Marla Gibbs, Robert Guillaume, Bill Cosby, Luther Vandross, Lawanda Page and countless others, it makes fools or hams out of all of them. As for the social goodwill-meistering -- which is something like, we can all be heroes and save our children -- it's so cheesily presented, you expect a corporate logo to appear at the bottom of the screen: "This message brought to you by McDonald's. Don't forget to buy the soundtrack on Motown Records -- or read the Scholastic book."

Townsend clearly has a knack for humor, a devilish point of view -- most evident in his debut, "Hollywood Shuffle." Unfortunately, his storymaking ability is far less inspired. He's so hamstrung with making everyone endearing and positive (barring crack dealers of course), it puts the wrong weight on everything. "Meteor Man" plods along, almost bent over by these constraints, pausing only briefly for comic breath.

After the initial meteor incident, Townsend spends most of the movie in Clark Kent remission. He's tiresomely reluctant to play the hero, even though his crack-infested neighborhood needs him; and even though he's increasingly aware of his ability to maul the meanest of them. It's just a narrative delaying tactic -- and it feels that way. However, there are some amusing moments as Townsend discovers his varied bag of new tricks -- with their ensuing complications. His X-ray vision makes him see a world of people in underwear (hey, this is a PG movie). After learning he can fly, his fear of heights forbids him to hover higher than four feet above the ground.

No amount of humor can survive the movie's dreary pace. That aforementioned finale, a protracted battle between Townsend and the gangsters, starts, ends, restarts, re-ends and starts all over again, like a recurring nightmare. Three "Godzilla" monster-clash movies would take less time. "Show's over!" says Townsend at one point, facing the villains for the umpteenth time. No it ain't.

Copyright The Washington Post

Back to the top

Home Page, Site Index, Search, Help