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A different kind of superhero movie

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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May 28, 2008 -- “Sidekick” is a different kind of superhero movie. It lives in the spooky dreamland between teen fantasy and adult reality. It provides a decidedly different twist on the standard comic book-based superhero story. This is a truly independent film, devoid of most Hollywood clichés, financed largely with credit card debt and made by determined filmmakers and actors with little experience. Daniel Baldwin is the only actor in this movie that audiences may have heard of before, so you know this is a tiny production. It holds up mainly because the story, written by Michael Sparaga, is truly compelling.

Geeky comic book-loving IT office worker Norman Neale (played by Perry Mucci) discovers that a fellow office worker, Victor Ventura (David Ingram) has the power of telekinesis. Conferring with local comic book dealer Chuck (Daniel Baldwin of “Paparazzi”), Norman decides it is his duty to teach Victor how to develop his powers for the good of mankind. At first, he is rebuffed by Victor, who considers Norman far below his social level. However, Victor changes his mind when his best friend is killed right in front of him in an auto accident, an accident he could have prevented had he developed his telekinetic powers. He then works with Norman to develop his powers, although he detests the training and doesn't like Norman. Eventually, he develops his power from a slight ability to move objects a few inches away with his mind to a level in which he can control human life and death over considerable distances.

Norman's plan doesn't work the way it does in comic books, however. Victor becomes increasingly hostile towards him and he shows little inclination to help others in need. He doesn't believe in the comic book credo, made famous by Marvel Comics: “With great power comes great responsibility.” He rejects the Spandex superhero costume that Norman makes for him. Victor becomes increasingly morose and self-involved. Norman begins to realize that his dream to make Victor into a superhero with himself as the faithful and helpful sidekick is not coming true. Victor challenges Norman about Norman's true motives for becoming a sidekick. He argues Norman's motives are not as pure as he believes they are. Victor's view of the world is considerably more pessimistic and less idealistic than Norman's. Norman doesn't want to think about his own motives too hard. His own motives involve a crush he has on a pretty office worker, Andrea Hicks (Mackenzie Lush). Eventually, things take a truly different turn for Norman, Andrea, Chuck and others who get caught up in a whirlwind of events.

The acting in this film is adequate by the leads, with Mucci and Ingram especially effective. The color scheme of the movie (as explained in the extras on the DVD) is to reflect Victor's changing moods in the film from malaise to elation to despair. It goes from muted to vivid to very dark. Because the film's limited budget for special effects, there aren't any dazzling displays of power. However the effects are adequate to show Victor's power in a convincing way. In any case, this film is more of a character study than a traditional superhero movie. It is more about expectations being shattered by harsh realities. This is a movie propelled by a brilliantly conceived, compelling story. After seeing it, I wonder why someone didn't think of this particular idea before. It is truly worthy of a sequel. I'd like to know what happens to these characters. The movie rates a B.

This movie was enough of a hit in Canada to catch the eyes of American video distributors. Lightyear Entertainment, along with Warner Home Video, will release the DVD of this film on June 10, 2008 (it can be pre-ordered now through Amazon.com and other venues). The DVD has a good selection of extras, from some funny outtakes to deleted scenes, video interviews with the cast and crew to a full length commentary soundtrack, which includes comments from both cast and filmmakers. It is evident from the comments of all concerned that doing the commentary soundtrack and participating in the interviews for the DVD was no chore. Everyone's comments indicated they were all proud to be involved in the production of this film and they are all thrilled with this film's success. This was a labor of love that just happened to be successful. The filmmakers had no expectation of making money. They made this film to see if they could do it and because they love movies. The fact that the film became successful is just icing on the cake. This film is a real feel good story, and an inspiration for anyone who feels the itch to make their own film. The DVD has an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (moderate widescreen) and Dolby ® two channel sound. This film is not yet rated, but looks to be a PG-13 candidate with some brief nudity and not much in the way of violence or profanity.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2008 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)