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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 19.44%
Average: 5.56%
Pretty Bad: 19.44%
Total Crap: 19.44%

3 reviews, 18 user ratings

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Imaginary Heroes
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by Lucas Stensland

"Too much of everything"
1 stars

X2: X-Men 2 co-screenwriter Dan Harris' directorial debut Imaginary Heroes is so overloaded with ideas that it ultimately doesn't know what it's trying to be. It's set in contemporary times and yet has those warm 1970s tobacco hues, thanks in part to cinematographer Tim Orr (DP for the great David Gordon Green), but the film's soul is neither then nor now. For all its comical substance-abuse moments and its use of homosexuality for shock value, the film can neither excuse its flaws as being bravely bold, nor can it claim to tackle any of its themes in a truthful or progressive manner. In the end, it's an awkward film made by a well-intentioned twenty-something for forty-somethings, and it won't play to either age bracket. The hip kids will sense its out-of-step phoniness, and the cynical adults will dismiss it as junky late-in-the-year award pandering. New to theatres, Imaginary Heroes is already dead.

The film also touches on incest, physical abuse, suicide, infidelity, disease, unhappy marriages, the popular sibling dying and leaving the unpopular one with a resentful parent, depressed teens, hidden musical talent, little sermons amplifying the film's too obvious title, a punk-rock bully, somebody pretending to go to work everyday and The Ice Storm's Sigourney Weaver hired to do her thing. It's like paying for a concert and getting cheated with a medley.

The film uses the seasons of the year as chapters, which has to be the most boring framing device possible and only furthers the film’s tone of banality, especially since the film never makes much use of its New Jersey setting and its seasonal colors. Newcomer Emile Hirsch (who looks like a cross between Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Black) plays Tim, a depressed and cynical high school senior. His older brother, a rising swimming star, commits suicide, leaving the screwed up family even more screwed up. The father, played strongly by Jeff Daniels, was obsessed with his son's swimming career and seems to wish that Tim had eaten the bullet instead. Weaver plays the freewheeling mother, who takes to smoking pot and strangely passing out in the yard.

In attempts at humor, Harris snottily knocks both the elderly and the poor. Old folks are repeatedly displayed as nuisances who speak only gobbledygook, especially the ladies who encourage Tim to speak to them if he ever feels depressed. And the impoverished get their comeuppance too. When Tim's mother believes that he is being beaten up by the school bully, she finds his address and confronts him and his (of course) single mother at their (of course) trailer-park home. While making her exit, she wittily scowls at the mother, "Nice trailer." This kind of cynicism isn't automatically rotten, but Harris plays it for laughs, not cognizant that he's asserting his superiority.

Like an inexperienced college kid's declaration of "truth," Harris relies on constant alcohol and drug use to underline characters' disillusionment. The mother passes out in the yard; the father passes out in his car parked on the street; and by the time Tim nearly passes out on the front yard, one realizes that Harris not only ran out of ideas, he did one worse: He even ran out of bad ideas.

Harris wrote the screenplay for the now-filming Fantastic Four and is currently working on the screenplay for Superman. I noticed in his bio that he also writes X-Men comic books. Having dedicated so much of his time to superheroes, Harris probably wanted to show that he understood not only comic-book heroes but also imaginary heroes, i.e. you and me. Wanting to demonstrate his versatility, Harris was obviously anxious to work on something down to earth, something in which human sorrow is the kryptonite. But this film just feels like somebody took American Beauty, The Ice Storm, Ordinary People, Y Tu Mama Tambien and about a dozen after-school specials, put them in a blender and pushed the "it'll-be-big-on-IFC" button.

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originally posted: 12/18/04 08:17:17
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Boston Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Boston Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/30/08 Kyle Definitely in my Top 20 favorites of all time. Great film w/great cast! 5 stars
10/30/06 Anthony This movie puts me in a mood I could never just jump into, I thought it was amazing. 5 stars
7/24/06 Marty hirsch and weaver rocked, but the "dramady" didn't work. selfconscious, not self aware 3 stars
6/02/06 Danny GREAT! Weaver is always a joy to watch, and Hirsch is one talented young actor. 5 stars
1/30/06 alice I HATE it when they do not know what they want DRAMA?COMEDIE?very shallow.Very pro drugs. 1 stars
1/04/06 Dan Nott Weaver in her best role. 2 Reviewers on this site were really off on this film. 5 stars
12/22/05 Natalie Weinrauch It definitley made me think. Changed some prospectives of mine. 5 stars
6/23/05 Giselle anything with Weaver is excellent and worth watching 5 stars
6/20/05 Sophia This film is beautiful, touching, heavy and depressing yet heart warming. 5 stars
6/12/05 Darryl Perhaps the best film so far this year. Great acting by all, esp. Weaver and Hirsch. 5 stars
10/27/04 Ian Sklarsky A wonderful story that actually depicts a family as a very hard struggle to maintain. 5 stars
10/20/04 Jenna IS a movie that willl leave you laughing 4 stars
10/17/04 Bette Lawler after laughing, it made me cry and think about my life. The big twists hit me - its amazing 5 stars
10/17/04 steve cruz this film pays off like a jackpot in the third act, be patient while it develops 5 stars
9/18/04 vince made me cry and laugh. the audience loved it. 5 stars
9/16/04 andrew bates 3 stars
9/14/04 Shauna Eckert 2 stars
9/03/04 Dan Harris I loved, but then again, I wrote and directed it. 5 stars
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  17-Dec-2004 (R)
  DVD: 07-Jun-2005



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