The Specials (2000)

The Specials, a 2000 straight to DVD comedy written by James Gunn (Slither) and directed by Craig Mazin (Superhero Movie), is a lot like the film Mystery Men which came out around the same time (and got a theatrical run). They are both about superhero teams that are not as high up on the food chain as say a Justice League or The Avengers. These teams have rosters of people with abilities that are considered lackluster. But unlike Mystery Men, The Specials is a low budget comedy about the life of a third-rate superhero team and what it lacks in effects and action, it makes up for in hilarity and creativity.

Instead of being a picture about a super group taking on a threat, it instead focuses on a day in the life of the team. Being the 6th or 7th best superhero team in the world leaves them with little to do, as all the good stuff is given to the better teams (like The Crusaders, the biggest and most famous of them all) and they are stuck taking on third-rate villains. Here is the roster for this superhero team:

The Strobe (Thomas Haden Church): The de-facto preachy leader. Trying desperately to get The Specials recognized as a threat, masterminding a deal to have a line of Specials action figures made, which is the highest form of praise for a superhero. Ego maniacal and controlling.

Ms. Indestructible (Paget Brewster): The Strobe’s wife. Hates being in the team and loathes The Strobe even more.

The Weevil (Rob Lowe): The most popular member of the team. A smoker, who aspires to join a bigger team.

Amok (Jaime Kennedy): A reformed super villain with a dirty mouth and even dirtier mind.

U.S. Bill (Mike Schwartz): Super strong but super dumb.

Power Chick (Kelly Coffield): An overly cheery hippie who takes cares of Alien Orphan.

Alien Orphan (Sean Gunn): An alien lifeform who acts like a child.

Minuteman (James Gunn): A man who can shrink. Name is often mispronounced, which agitates him. The brother of The Strobe.

Mr. Smart (Jim Sulevic): The smartest man in the world. Prone to making dumb inventions.

Deadly Girl (Judy Greer): A gothic-looking angsty person who hates everyone.

Eight (a buncha people): A man who splits himself into 9 very different looking people. Aloof and does not get involved much.

Nightbird (Jordan Ladd): The newest recruit. Young and impressionable, really excited to join her favorite superhero team.

The Specials occurs over a day in their lives. Nightbird, the new recruit, is introduced to everyone as they prep for their big action figure unveiling. After the presentation goes haywire, the team is put into jeopardy by petty squabbles and big decisions.

As you can tell, this isn’t your typical superhero movie. This is a pure character-driven comedy about a group of misfits who have banded together because they feel like social outcasts or are too weird to be part of the big boys. They each have their own neuroses and fears, but they love being a part of the team and doing good, unlike The Crusaders, who just seem to be in it for the praise.

If you can’t tell by the way I’m writing about this, I absolutely loved this movie. It’s so completely different and original from other superhero films and it works on many levels. It pokes fun at what it means to be a superhero and how ego plays a big part. Each actor in this film, as their superhero, does an amazing job. Thomas Haden Church is great in everything he does (even if the movie sucks) and really brought his A-game as The Strobe. He plays egotistical perfectly, and he’s absolutely hilarious and at the same time, heartbreaking in some respects because no matter how egotistical he seems, he simply wants to do good. Jordan Ladd is absolutely adorable as the new recruit, and you can’t help but fall in love with her through the movie.

I’m going to feel weird saying this, but The Specials belongs to Mike Schwartz and…Jaime Kennedy. Yes, that’s right. Kennedy is absolutely rib-breaking hilarious as Amok, a super villain turned superhero who still wants to be evil. He handles most of the film’s swearing, but he’s great with it and made me almost forget about his other film misfires. Almost. Schwartz plays the dumb one in the group, but he gets the most laughs out of anyone in the movie with his awkward comments and social retardation. He played the UPS-like guy on Scrubs, so I knew he was funny, but wow.

The Specials does have a few problems, namely with certain plot points that are disregarded, namely one. I won’t spoil it, but it had me scratching my head and going “wasn’t it going a different way?” It was a very minor quibble though. Some of the dialogue is a little suspect too, but for a low budget film shot in 18 days, it’s forgivable.

The Specials is a hilarious take on group dynamics and superheroism that was shamefully put straight to video when it was released 10 years ago. It deserves a lot better and has “cult hit” written all over it. It’s better than a lot of the superhero films and actually presents characters that are interesting and complex. I recommend this as highly as humanly possible.

Final Verdict:


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