NEW YORK – "A Uniform Used to Mean Something," the year's funniest new movie so far, offers a rare opportunity to catch Jerry Seinfeld (search) at the top of his game - but it's watchable only on the Web.
Actually, calling it a movie may be overstating the case, since this small masterpiece that teams Seinfeld with an animated Superman (search) is only five minutes long - and is a commercial for Seinfeld's longtime patron, American Express (search).
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
In fact, there are more laughs in this ambitious short (or "Webisode") by Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson (search) ("Rain Man") than are in most feature-length comedies these days, including Levinson's upcoming "Envy" with Ben Stiller and Jack Black.
"Uniform" depicts Seinfeld and the Man of Steel - who uses that name to make restaurant reservations so they don't have to sit near the kitchen.
As voiced by Patrick Warburton (search) - who played Elaine's immortal ex-boyfriend Puddy on "Seinfeld" - and wittily animated by Radical Media, Superman has been re-imagined as an endearing, socially maladroit bumbler (not unlike George Costanza) who pretends to recognize a man he rescued years before.
Seinfeld declines Superman's suggestion for an activity - "cycling with you is no fun" - and suggests the Man of Steel help him hook up the speakers for his new DVD player.
Superman: "I've always wanted Surround Sound."
Seinfeld: "But you have super hearing."
Superman: "It's not the same thing. Surround Sound is like being there."
The two continue to bicker in classic "Seinfeld" fashion about reality TV shows and advertising blurbs outside a Broadway theater for a show called "Oh Yes, Wyoming!" until a robber steals Seinfeld's DVD player, oblivious to Superman's presence.
The contrite superhero tries to make amends, but Seinfield has a simpler solution involving his - surprise! - American Express card.
Unlike many sitcom stars - notably the "Friends" cast, who have appeared in countless dreadful movies - Seinfeld (who co-wrote the short with American Express' ad agency) realizes that his comedy works best in small doses.
And he's rich enough not to be seduced by Holly
Seinfeld's long-running AmEx commercials - including an earlier effort with Superman that aired during the 1998 Super Bowl - have always been a model of soft-sell wit, and it's good to see him venturing into something slightly more ambitious.
Seinfeld, Superman and Levinson have already wrapped a follow-up called "Hindsight is 20/20," in which our heroes are stranded in Death Valley.
Based on a brief preview on the Web site, we can't wait.