2006 // USA // Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore // November 17, 2008 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema)
For awhile, Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore's Special succeeds as a blackly comedic take on the superhero film. In early scenes, the directors balance admittedly hilarious visual gags and absurdity with an array of straightforward themes—the wearying banality of urban life, our longing for pharmacological solutions to our miseries, and, yes, the sadly juvenile nature of comic fandom. In Michael Rapaport, Haberm and Passmore seem to have found their ideal man-child. Rapaport portrays Les, a parking enforcement officer who enters a drug trial that will allegedly boost his self-confidence. Deluded that he has acquired a plethora of superpowers—flight, telepathy, teleportation, speed, and invulnerability—Les appoints himself the city's crime fighter. (Mostly this consists of tackling shoplifters and purse-snatchers.) The film's initial treatment of Les—the unfortunate and softly sympathetic progeny of society's multitude sicknesses—is fascinating, but Haberman Passmore don't seem to know what to do him. Things go off the rails once the directors introduce a medical and financial conspiracy, and then start engaging in bizarre indulgences that smell of a misdirected pretension. Despite some engaging developments in a thin romantic subplot, by its final twenty minutes Special is stuck in a narrative and thematic mire from which it never escapes.