The Specials 2000
I continue with my spree of superhero comedies with a little known movie from 2000 called The Specials. It’s a low budget movie with a lot of moderately well known comedians or comic actors, like Rob Lowe and Thomas Hayden Church, playing what is essentially a third or fourth tier superhero group. It also seems to draw inspiration from other superhero comedies such as the Tick, where the majority of the plot revolves around what happens in between natural disasters and super villains. In fact, in this movie there’s not a single action scene, and only a slight hint of what the heroes powers actually are. Instead it revolves around what happens with their interpersonal relationship in a pseudo reality show format, complete with confessional moments talking directly to the camera. While it does have some funny moments, there’s really too much going on and too many characters to try and service, so it felt like most of the runtime tries to work all the characters into the plot more than it tries to be funny.
The biggest problem I had with this movie is that there are just too many characters, and they all have awful superhero names. Not funny awful, just awful awful. Like Power Lass, Mrs. Indestructible, The Weevil, Minute (pronounced my newt) Man, The Strobe, Mr. Smart, and Eight. They also have generally boring or odd powers, and once again they missed the opportunity to give them funny powers, they’re just lame. Like super strength, indestructibility, the ability to shoot lasers from his arms, and “bird powers”. The characters themselves all have varied personalities, from Deadly Girl’s uncaring mean-spirited comments, to Alien Orphan’s generally tweakish alien personality. Some of the characters were funny, others were just kind of there, and others still seemed fairly pointless. Like Eight especially, who is eight people with a shared mind who take turns talking, but only really have one scene in the movie. I think my favorite character who had the right amount of time in the movie was U.S. Bill. He has super strength, and minimal intelligence, and has some of the funniest lines in the movie.
The format of the movie was another thing that I had some trouble with. It was set up like it was being made for a reality television show, but there was no real explanation behind it. It really needed something to help set up why they were talking directly to the camera. A simple set up at the beginning that they were doing a reality show, or other hints to make the movie feel more like a documentary. But instead it’s just left with these confessional moments that feel like they’re from MTV’s the Real World, but they feel out of place within the movie. There’s also the best scene where they’re at the announcement ceremony for their action figures and get to see the commercial for the first time, complete with market research changes, such as making Minute Man black, and turning Alien Orphan into their archvillain and a refrigerator.
I did really want to like the concept for this movie. I’m a big fan of the Tick, and I’m all for seeing a superhero movie without a single action scene. But there just wasn’t enough comedy, and the drama felt really stale. It was also really hard to care about a lot of the characters. Jamie Kennedy played Amok, who looks like Nightcrawler without the tail, and he’s an ex-villain who spends the entire movie swearing and thinking about sex. He was too abrasive to be endearing, and he just plain was never funny. Mrs. Indestructible is the wife of The Strobe, played by Thomas Hayden Church, who is also the leader of the group, and she is incredibly boring. Another big moment in the movie is when The Strobe catches his wife having an affair with the Weevil, where he just stares blankly at her for a while, then goes back inside and announces the dissolution of the Specials. The affair is mentioned one other time, and then it’s just dropped. There’s no real resolution to the conflict, it just kind of goes away. There’s also the whole new recruit plotline with Nightbird, who is a long time fan of the Specials, but she also just felt like an excuse to explain things to the audience, and be a pretty girl for the jerk-ish members of the team to gawk at and try to date.
There were some good moments in the movie, many of the characters get a couple moments to shine, like when Alien Orphan orders a Bloody Mary, or the surprise appearance of Melissa Joan Hart in a flower costume. I did enjoy it from time to time, but the rest of the movie was spent hearing exposition just so I knew the difference between Power Lass and Deadly Girl. And at the end, there is a moment where they all get to “show off” their powers as they rush to stop an invasion of giant ants, but I really wish they hadn’t. Instead of imagining what their powers would be like, we’re treated to extremely low budget effects of sparklies around The Strobe and Amok’s arms, Power Lass as a shiny blob of metallic ugly, and Alien Orphan turning into the worst Pterydactl I’ve ever seen. It’s a decent distraction, but it could have been done so much better. I’d much rather watch the short lived live action Tick series. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.