Assuming folks were growing Bat-damn-tired of the Bat-themed reviews, the vault turns to Ol’ Reliable , the birthday calendar, looking for a celebrity born today who also has a superhero credit to their name. And the gates opened wide to reveal one of my favorite actresses, Judy Greer. Ms. Greer is 37 today and it was back in 2000 when she stepped into the superhero foray as Deadly Girl.
Ted Tilderbrook (Thomas Haden Church), known to the world as The Strobe and often referred to as “The Great Strobe” by himself, can shoot laser beams from his arms and is the founder and leader of the superhero group, The Specials. The Specials are the world’s sixth or seventh most popular group of superheroes who usually see action only when the more popular, well-funded superhero teams are all busy or they deem the threat beneath their status. Times are a-changing for The Specials because Kosgrov Toys is releasing a line of action figures in their honor, which in the superhero world is the equivalent of an Oscar. With the excitement of the line and the induction of their newest member, Shelly a.k.a. Nightbird (Jordan Ladd), the only thing standing in their way is themselves.
In addition to The Strobe, his ego, and Nightbird, The Specials roster includes Ted’s brother Tim, a.k.a Minute Man (James Gunn), and his wife Emily, a.k.a Ms. Indestructible (Paget Brewster). Tony, a.k.a The Weevil (Rob Lowe) is by far the most popular Special, while his best bud Amok (Jamie Kennedy) is a reformed villain and all-around ass. Then there’s Deadly Girl (Judy Greer), Power Chick (Kelly Cofield), the Alien Orphan a.k.a. Doug (Sean Gunn), Mr. Smart (Jim Zulevic), U.S. Bill (Mike Schwartz), and Eight (John Doe, Abdul Salaam El Razzac, Lauren Cohn, Tom Dorfmeister, Chitu Tiu, Johann Stauf , Brian Gunn, Samantha Cannon), a group of eight individuals controlled by a single consciousness.
Damn, that’s twelve members, nineteen if you count Eight’s eight separately. That’s also one problem with The Specials; too many damned characters and their foibles to parade around for only eighty minutes. Their personal issues have potential. Ted must weigh the pride over his superhero career against a new job as a “welding asshole.” Also, he and Emily are having marital issues. The Weevil is looking for greater fame and fortune while Minute Man just wants folks to pronounce his name right. The Specials is loaded with potential, but little of it transfers into the kinetic energy needed to give the film momentum.
Despite gung ho performances and an interesting premise, The Specials is thin on execution. There’s a lack of pizzazz, and not in terms of design; the team’s modest headquarters and costumes embodies their pedestrian status. The issues may have been the result of a tiny budget, but greatness can happen on the tiniest of sums.
Much of the team’s back-story is provided in a low-budget recruiting video and their dysfunctions are addressed to the camera via candid asides. Given the more talk-y, less action-y approach taken by director Craig Mazin, The Specials needed its comic tempo to entertain. Unfortunately, the story never finds its humorous rhythm, leaving audiences to squirm while the actors shuck and jive in silence.
The Specials does have a few moments to be proud of. The unveiling of the Kosgrov Toys’ The Specials line is the funniest damn scene of the film. In retrospect, The Specials, and its intermittent inspired moments, would have been better suited to a comic web series rather than the never fully-realized film it is. As it exists, it makes for a decent distraction playing in the background of a lazy Sunday.