Stars: Damon Wayans, David Alan Grier, Robin Givens, Christopher Lawford, Lynne Thigpen, Jon Polito, Nicky Corello, Jason Alexander. Written by Damon Wayans & J.F. Lawton. Directed by Mike Binder. Rated PG-13 for violence, profanity.

It's difficult to launch a new super-hero. Just look at last year's failed attempt, the sappy "Meteor Man". The recently released "Blankman" is about a nerdy man-child who fulfills his childhood dream of becoming a crime fighter. Although meant to be more comedy than fantasy, the film is only sporadically funny.

Simple-minded Darryl Walker (Damon Wayans) and his more down- to-earth brother Kevin (David Alan Grier) watched the campy "Batman" series on TV each week as kids. After the show they would make believe that they were super-heroes. Now as adults living in their grandmother's (Lynne Thigpen) home, Kevin has outgrown such foolishness, but Darryl hasn't lost an ounce of his boyish whimsy. He works as an inventor, creating things such as a sound-activated, mobile fly swatter from common household objects. One day he accidently creates a substance that renders clothing bullet-proof and inflammable.

When his grandmother becomes a victim of mob violence, Darryl decides to take matters into his own hands. He creates costumes for both himself and his brother, coats them with the protective substance, and fashions himself a utility belt in which he stores small inventions. Although his brother initially scoffs and refuses to don his costume, Blankman soon becomes a hero to the public.

I think where "Blankman" goes wrong is in making Darryl a caricature more than a character. Wayans, who co-wrote the movie, gives a strictly one-note performance. Also, I'm getting a little tired of seeing members of organized crime as heavies in films (i.e. "The Mask", "The Client", "Clear and Present Danger"). What ever happened to good old arch-villains?

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