Monday, March 29, 2010

The Specials

This movie wasn't based on a comic, I don't think it was even based on a desire to make any money. Ok, I'm kidding there, but it is a strange mix of spoof, homage, super hero deconstruction, and... inaction to be a movie that anyone thought would go anywhere in 2000 in my opinion, plus I have seen more than a few reviews and comments (as I was preparing to write this) that share my experience of never having heard of the movie before seeing it on Netflix. I had seen images of Jamie Kennedy in the blue makeup he wears in this movie, but I never knew what it was from.

The Specials focuses on a slow day in the life of the 6th or 7th best super-hero team. There is no fighting in the movie, no villains, and only really one display of powers for the most part, and it comes at the end, when the group is getting ready to go fight some giant ants (that we only hear about). None of these absences are an issue, because the film isn't about those things. It's about super-heroes and fame and expectations vs reality and about how people interact and regard each other, and about how 'families' are formed and interact, etc. I applaud it for being exactly what it is, and not trying to be more, or even less, in order to be more commercial.

Rob Lowe plays the most popular and charismatic of his group. He is the Weevil, a second generation hero, and a giant douchebag. Rob Lowe's super power is his douchebag ability, so this fits him perfectly. He plays it very well, when his character has sex with a teammate who is married to another teammate, and when he cheers up the 'new girl' only to sell her out and cruelly make fun of her on television. Jamie Kennedy plays the blue skinned Amok, who looks a lot like nightcrawler, and cusses like the reformed bad guy he is. Thomas Haden Church is The Strobe, the teams leader with a highly inflated sense of self, regardless of his good intentions.

I think the casting was done well for this, and everyone plays their roles. The team contains a good mix of types that borrow from comic book standards, and is shown with its strengths and weaknesses right out in the open. This is a comedy, so I am not trying to act like it is too deep, but it isn't the shallowest thing either. There are some neat concepts in it, like a hero called 8 who has 8 bodies but shares one interconnected mind, a being they call Doug, who's official name is Alien Orphan, and acts as a sort of remedial Martian Manhunter. There is a funny and tragic commentary on 'stretchy powers', and a good theme about the toy business being a primary measure of super hero stature.

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