Friday, July 12, 2013

#1,061. Special (2006)

Directed By: Hal Haberman, Jeremy Passmore

Starring: Michael Rapaport, Paul Blackthorne, Josh Peck

Tag line: "He's not your ordinary superhero"

Trivia: Won the Jury's Choice Award at the 2006 Puchon Int'l Fantastic Film Festival

After being relegated to supporting roles in movies like True Romance, Cop Land, and Bamboozled, Michael Rapaport finally got his chance to play the lead in the 2006 fantasy / comedy, Special, a film about an ordinary guy who thinks he’s turning into a super hero.

Les (Rapaport) works as a parking attendant for the Los Angeles Police Department, and spends his free time reading comic books and hanging out with pals Everett (Robert Baker) and Joey (Josh Peck). All that changes, however, when Les signs up to be a test subject for an experimental drug, which seems to have an amazing effect on him. Shortly after taking the first pill, Les develops incredible powers, including the ability to walk through walls, communicate telepathically, and hover several feet above the ground. Donning a superhero costume, Les quits his job and hits the streets, prepared to take a bite out of crime. The problem is nobody else can see him performing these unbelievable feats. In fact, most people think Les is losing his mind.

Special is a very funny film, especially early on, when Les is demonstrating his new-found abilities. In one scene, he’s visiting Dr. Dobson (Jack Kehler), the physician who monitors the effects of the experimental drug. To prove the pills have given him extraordinary powers, Les dives off of Dobson’s desk and, just before hitting the ground, freezes in mid-air. At least that’s how Les sees it. When we switch to Dr. Dobson’s perspective, Les is lying flat on the floor, flailing his arms. Yet Special is more than a comedy; it’s a portrait of a lonely guy whose suddenly found a purpose in life. Rapaport is superb as the confused lead character, flawlessly merging humor with humanity, and no matter how out-of-control he gets, we can’t help but root for poor 'ole Les.

With a budget of about a million dollars, Special has the look and feel of a small film, but thanks to its clever story and a career-defining performance by Michael Rapaport, this “small film” delivers in a big, big way.

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