I used to like clowns.
I know a lot of people find clowns incredibly scary, usually for reasons relating to various childhood birthday party traumas, but me, I always liked them.
But then, my clowns never turned into an evil bug monster from Hell.
Enter Spawn. Based on a comic book, this movie is not for kids. I mean the name of the movie is Spawn, as in Demon Spawn. Bugs and Daffy would last all of five seconds in this world.
Which sends me on another tirade. See, I sat exactly one row in front of and two chairs over from some nutball who brought his two-year old kid. Guess what? The kid was not enjoying the movie, and neither was anyone else in the audience.
Audience Etiquette Rule #2813: Don't you dare bring some bratty little teether to a violent movie. That's how serial killers are made. Next thing you know, your offspring is wearing camouflage and stalking the Spice Girls. Personally, if you have kids under the age of, say, consent, then you aren't allowed to go out in public. That's what Blockbuster is for. No one wants to hear a crying baby when Martin Sheen is explaining how he's gonna take over the world. Have some common courtesy!
OK, back to the movie.
The story of Spawn, as if it needs a story, is pretty simple. Good guy, who's really a bad guy deciding to turn good, is killed. He goes to Hell. He makes a pact with some ruler of Hell who is neither Satan nor Hades. He promises said ruler that he will lead the army of the dead against the gates of Heaven in exchange for a chance to come back to Earth and say "Hi" to his wife.
Oh, like you wouldn't do the same.
So our hero is Spawn, also known as Al Simmons. He can do anything with his wacked-out armor. Or at least, anything that computer graphics guys can think up. He does a lot of them. The main villain is Clown. Clown, played by John Leguizamo in what has to be one of the most incredible performances of the year, also works for the ruler of Hell. He helps Spawn along, but he is also trying to mess with him. Man, you don't know who's good and who's evil.
Except Martin Sheen, you know he's evil.
Am I losing you?
Don't worry. Basically, Spawn is one big special effects reel. Some of the effects are incredible. Some are not. The unheralded heroes of this picture are the make-up artists who turned 5'6" or so Leguizamo into the 4'5" or so Clown. I mean this is great make-up. Look for an Academy Award for this stuff.
Did I like Spawn? Sure, when I could hear it over the darned kid behind me. See above tirade.
Michael Jai White, of Michael Jai White fame, is the poor sod stuck in Spawn's make-up for two hours on screen. He's fine. There's a girl or two as well in the movie, but let's face it, we're not here for the chicks.
We're here for the violence. And there's a lot of it. Blood, gore, demon-blood, demon-gore. And some cool effects. Is it too violent? Well for a two-year-old, yeah. But I doubt it's going to inspire anyone to worship Satan, who isn't really in the movie anyway, so why bother. This is an amusement ride. Don't worry about plot. Don't worry about making sense. It's a comic book. And darn it, it's a great job at bringing a true comic book to the screen without trying to camp it up ala Batman & Your Mom.
I give Spawn 3 1/4 Babylons. A fun pic, worth your time if you love special effects but not worth your time if you'd prefer Amadeus.
The Self-Made Critic, who is sometimes mistaken for Demon Spawn himself, is an old fuddy-duddy who has a thing against loud children. While we too don't think this is a movie to bring your toddler to, you really don't have to closet yourself until your kids turn 18.
Just don't let them near The Critic.
Rated: PG-13 (But just barely)
Directed by: Mark Dippe
Starring: Michael Jai White, John Leguizamo, Martin Sheen, and the minions of Hell.