dvd review: SIDEKICK

The film industry has had a special place in its heart for superhero movies, especially in recent years with films like Spider-Man, Iron Man and Batman Begins raking in billions of dollars at the box office. And while there have been some truly great and entertaining films about superheroes, only a small handful have approached the genre with any sort of true originality or vision. Flawed though it may have been, M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable is one of the best portraits of a superhero ever committed to film. Likewise, co-directors Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore’s still-unreleased Special is a wonderful deconstruction of the superhero mythology, which like Unbreakable is set in the “real” world. Not quite as good as Unbreakable or Special, but no less interesting in what it attempts, director Blake Van de Graaf’s Sidekick is a clever take on the mythos of the superhero.

Norman Neale (Perry Mucci) is a dorky computer tech who borders on social ineptitude. His after work hours are spent discussing his one true love—comic books—with Chuck (Daniel Baldwin), the owner of the local comic shop. He also lusts after Andrea (Mackenzie Lush), the receptionist at work that only seems to have eyes for Victor Ventura (David Ingram). After a series of incidents that strike him as odd, Norman becomes convinced that Victor has some sort of super powers. Norman sees an opportunity to help Victor realize his potential by acting as both a mentor and sidekick to his co-worker. The problem, however, is that Victor has no real interest in developing his power, seeing it as some freakish curse that has kept him from achieving any sort of true greatness.

Victor has a change of heart when his drinking buddy is killed in a car accident, and he’s unable to do anything to stop it. Soon, Norman is helping Victor sharpen his telekinetic abilities, and living vicariously through his super-powered friend. But while Norman has plans to use Victor’s powers to make the world a better place, Victor could care less. Gradually, it begins to dawn on Norman that the self-absorbed, conceited Victor does not have what it takes to be a hero, and that he has inadvertently been training his co-worker to become a villain. Realizing what he has done, Norman must take on the role of hero himself, but he may be too late to stop his new nemesis.

With a great concept driving it, Sidekick has much of what it takes to be a great movie. Unfortunately, the film falls short of greatness due to several key factors. For one thing, Norman is written and played a bit too socially inept. Mucci isn’t bad in the role, but he brings a bit too much overzealous dorkiness to the part of Norman, and at times the character is too annoying and hopeless to ever elicit either sympathy or empathy. More often than not, it is obvious why Victor doesn’t want to have anything to do with Norman.

There is a similar problem with Victor in that he comes across a bit too self-absorbed in the beginning, making his villainous turn not as much of a surprise as it could be. It would have been nice if the Michael Sparaga’s script had a bit more subtlety to the characters, giving them a greater sense of dimension. And none of this is to say that the script, characters or performances are bad, because everything is actually good. Sparaga’s script makes a nice transition from the more comedic foundation it starts out with, and shifts to explore darker territories within the second act, which is when the film really becomes interesting.

Reminiscent in some ways of Kevin Smith’s better films, Sidekick is a solidly entertaining movie, despite its flaws. It works as a compelling character study and a reworking of the modern superhero mythology. Comic book fans will enjoy it, but it has enough appeal that is should work for anyone not well versed in the medium. And while the obviously low budget may distract some people initially, if you stick it out, you will be entertained.




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