You don’t get anymore niche than 2000’s “The Specials”, about a group of loser superheroes who are “the 6th or 7th best superhero group” in the world. Like “Comic Book Villains”, another movie based around comic book lore and situations, “The Specials” is basically a low-budget comedy about what it means to be a superhero and a loser at the same time. If you’ve never picked up a comic book and read it from cover to cover, then there will be absolutely nothing remarkable or (excuse the pun) special about “The Specials” for you.
Our group of superheroes, called the Specials, is led by the Strobe (Thomas Haden Church), a vain superhero that can, supposedly, shoot lasers out of his hands. The Strobe has a wife called Ms. Indestructible (Paget Brewster), who supposedly can withstand an atomic blast, but apparently not a punch to the eye. The other member of the family is Minute Man (pronounced as “manoot” as in short/small), who keeps getting mistaken for “minute” man, as in the length of time (people also thinks his costume makes him look gay). The real star of the group is the Weevil (Rob Lowe), who is apparently the Batman of the group and the most popular, having come from a long line of weevil-powered superheroes (and no, I don’t know what the heck a “weevil” is). Jamie Kennedy, of TV’s “The Jamie Kenny Experiment”, plays Amok, a man with blue skin, red eyes, and a foul mouth.
You’ll notice that I used the word “supposedly” more than once in the description above. That’s because the movie is, as previously mentioned, a low-budget endeavor, and that means there’s no money for special effects. (In fact, if you’ve seen the movie’s trailer, you’ve pretty much seen all — and I mean all — of the special effects the film can muster.) The point of the film, of course, is that this is a comedy, a tongue-in-cheek satire about what losers these guys are despite being superpowered and semi-celebrities. With that in mind, don’t go into the film expecting superpowered battles with supervillains, because there aren’t any — not even close.
The above said, I liked “The Specials” a lot. It’s a hokey movie, and you have to really like comic books (or used to in your younger days, as in my case) to fully appreciate why the film is such a riot. But even if you can’t tell one Robin from another (yes, there are more than one Boy Wonder in comic book lore), the screenplay by James Gunn (“Scooby Doo”) is funny enough that the film will stand on its own feet. It helps that there’s a troupe of very talented actors at work here, led by Rob Lowe (“Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”) and Thomas Haden Church (“Demon Knight”). Paget Brewster’s Ms. Indestructible and her affair with the Weevil is also good for some laughs; and on the plus side, Ms. Indestructible looks incredible out of costume.
But everyone takes a back seat to the comic gold that is Jamie Kennedy. His Amok, a blue-skin freak that wants to hump everything that wanders into his vicinity, is a laugh-a-minute. Or should I say a laugh-a-cuss word. The film is Rated R, so that means Amok curses like a sailor and shows less class than Madonna in her heyday. Judy Greer also co-stars as Deadly Girl, who can supposedly summon dead people, which may explain her grumpy disposition and why lesbian supervillains try to recruit her. Mike Schwartz plays another funny character name U.S. Bill, who is a very “special” Special, if you know what I mean.
You don’t have to have been (or is) emerged in the comic book world to absolutely love “The Specials”, but it helps. The movie is a nicely paced 80 minutes, and is definitely not for kids. But then again, it was either Marvel or D.C. comics that introduced the motto, “Comics aren’t just for kids anymore” sometime in the ’80s. If you don’t already know, comic book characters nowadays are more complex than characters in your average novel, and sometimes even more so. By this of course I mean that Batman is not the mask that Bruce Wayne wears, but rather it’s the other way around. (And if you know what that last sentence means, then you’ll probably adore “The Specials” as much as I did.)
Craig Mazin (director) / James Gunn (screenplay)
CAST: Thomas Haden Church …. The Strobe
Kelly Coffield …. Power Chick
Judy Greer …. Deadly Girl
Jamie Kennedy …. Amok
Jordan Ladd …. Nightbird
Rob Lowe …. The Weevil