Sometimes, directors who want to make a big-time comic book movie will prove their chops by making their own. Sam Raimi did it with Darkman and was rewarded with the Spider-Man trilogy. James Gunn did it with Super, and now he's working on Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. I can't speak for the directors' ambitions, but The History of Future Folk feels like such a movie.
It's got the same rough-around-the-edges feel as those films, along with some humor and a deep love for the works that inspired it. Unfortunately, it's not very good, but earns a lot of points for its earnestness, music and charm.
The biggest problem is its lead (Nils d'Aulaire, making his feature debut) as Bill is far too mopey to carry a story that's lighthearted most of the time. He plays the devoted father of Wren (Onata Aprile, getting raves in What Maisie Knew) and not-so-devoted husband of Holly (Julie Ann Emery). He loves to tell his daughter a bedtime story about the planet of Hondo and the brave general who saved the planet from a comet.
Turns out that bedtime story is real. Bill really is that general from Hondo, but he hasn't saved the day yet. He was sent to earth, not to save his planet, but to wipe out ours. But he can't do that because he's fallen in love with music, which apparently does not exist on Hondo. So he's been toiling away for years looking for a way to save both planets.
Naturally, the Hondonian people aren't too pleased that he hasn't come back yet and they're still facing impending doom. But the guy they've sent to bring him home isn't exactly an elite fighter. He's a schlubby guy with glasses who gets winded during chases. It's at this point that the film switches from a meditation on loneliness to a Laurel & Hardy/Flight of the Conchords hybrid. The switch is jarring but at least more entertaining.
There are more gags, song, and heart in the rest of the movie, but it can't exactly save the film as a whole, particularly since it's not that funny. This is definitely family-friendly without being lame, but it's nothing groundbreaking either.
Perhaps its biggest failure is the relationship between Bill and Holly. Despite the heartfelt reunion we all know is coming, I never believed their love for a second. But the father-daughter section works like gangbusters.
I can't wholeheartedly recommend The History of Future Folk, but I'm definitely big on the potential the directors possess. The only way they can go is up.