The Specials (Anchor Bay)
Sound: B- Extras: C+ Film: C+
The Superhero genre is back and stronger than ever, but
with it inevitably comes the return of its corollary, the funny superhero
response. Originally coming out of a
combination of the Pop Art movement of the 1960s, the TV series version of Batman
that followed, and the realities of Vietnam, it is now common without that
combination of events. The Specials
(1999) is a burnout, slacker, mockery of the group heroes subgenre, especially X-Men. Unfortunately, it is the same old series of
jokes in superhero clothing.
Rob Lowe, Jamie Kennedy, Thomas Hayden Church, Kelly
Coffield and Melissa Joan Hart are among a cast that could have been in a funny
film sending up superheroes. Not that Batman
& Robin, The Hulk and Constantine were not humorously
implosive for all the wrong reasons (should Hulk really look like Shrek?), it
is just that the film simply has nothing worth spoofing. Mystery Men came out the same year
with a more known cast, yet was actually more idiotic and pointless, though it
was better promoted. The result is that
it was a much bigger bomb; both films feeling inspired more by Howard The
Duck and its successful “cousins” The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. All come from a school of thought that
superheroes are dead, but with Marvel Comic films hitting big and DC Comics
about to join them, these films (even the Turtles in some odd way,
though they too are experiencing a surprise revival riding this new wave) are
as old, tired and dead as they are wrong.
As wrong as uninspired writer James Gunn and director Craig Mazin are
and continue to be. Unless you hate
this kind of storytelling, The Specials is not worth your time.
The anamorphically enhanced 1.77 X 1 image is nothing
“special” and misses an opportunity to have fun with the look of various films
to that time. Elliot Rockett was the
cinematographer, choosing to match the script with unmemorable images. Too bad.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix offers flat music score by Brian Langsbard and
is limited in its surrounds. The
combination is adequate at best. Extras
include two commentaries that add little to the film, deleted scenes that would
not make a difference, stills, “wedding video”, trailer and a mock toy commercial. Even that was a mess and nothing we had not
seen before, and all remind the viewer of even more missed opportunities. If only the comedy was funny.
- Nicholas Sheffo