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Alter Egos (2012)
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by Jay Seaver

"Actually manages to be super-entertaining."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: It would have been really easy to make "Alter Egos" little more than a feature-length series of jokes made at the expense of comic book clichés loosely connected by a standard story template. And there's a lot of that going on here, but there's also an actual story that doesn't suffer despite the silliness around it.

In a world much like ours, except with superheroes who work together as part of the government-supported Super Corps - though there's a movement to de-fund the organization - Brendan (Kris Lemche) is having a bit of an identity crisis, in that his superhero alter ego Fridge is having an affair with his girlfriend Emily (Christine Evangelista). So when friend and colleague C-Thru (Joey Kern) calls him to participate in a mission to help transport notorious supervillain The Shrink (John Ventimglia), he's in. However, when he arrives at the deserted motel in the Hamptons where C-Thru and Shrink are located, its soon clear that there's more going on than meets the eye, even before you consider Claudel (Brooke Nevin), the cute girl at the front desk, and Jimmy (Danny Masterson), the local cop who holds a grudge against the Corps for rejecting him.

The screenplay for a movie like this doesn't have to do a lot - in practical terms, it's got to find a way to keep the concept cost-effective without necessarily feeling cheap, while also delivering some jokes and ideally a through-line that keeps a bad joke from stopping it dead. So, it's kind of impressive that Jordan Galland's story both does that and goes for more; the story with Shrink sets itself up to be potentially twisty and suspenseful early on, and delivers on that, while the parallel romantic comedy/farce story with Claudel and Emily has a lot of funny material. What's impressive is how well C-Thru fits a different purpose in both without it being a seeming contradiction, and that the serious story has comic relief of its own while the funny one builds to a climax with a bit of tension, and the intersections don't feel forced.

Galland handles things very well as both a writer and director, but it's up to the cast to sell it, and they do a pretty great job. Kris Lemche has a character who comes off as more than a bit pathetic at the start, and is acting out most of the jokes at his own expense, but also has to be likable enough for the potential romance with Claudel to be something worth rooting for. He hits that sweet spot rather nicely, though, and performs admirably when he's got to quickly jump between emotionally tortured superhero stuff and goofy physical comedy. Both his main co-stars are doing pretty well, too - Brooke Nevin makes Claudel charming and funny enough for love at first sight in part because of a sharp tongue, while Joey Kern both works as a straight man when reacting to Fridge's unique neuroses, a guy with a secret, and someone whose own x-ray vision power makes him weird and kind of pervy on his own. While John Ventimiglia is actually fairly restrained as the supervillain, Christine Evangelista goes for broke with good results and Danny Masterson straddles the line between funny and threatening rather well.

They all get good lines, but it's also kind of impressive how well Galland handles the superhero stuff as well. The details are well-done, like how the Super Corps costumes seem unified without quite being uniform, or how the limited powers not only keep the budget down but allow the "almost like ours" universe to make sense. There aren't a lot of effects shots, but they work, both as funny and believable. And, again, the story has worthwhile stakes while still being funny.

That's no mean feat. Superhero jokes are easy, especially when you know enough about the archetypes and problems with a shared comic book universe to really shred them. Making those jokes while also getting the audience to wonder what's going to happen next? That may be a superpower of its own.

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originally posted: 07/25/12 16:37:29
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2012 series, click here.

User Comments

7/27/12 charlene aquilina very funny and unique , loved it 5 stars
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Directed by
  Jordan Galland

Written by
  Jordan Galland

  Kris Lemche
  Brooke Nevin
  Joey Kern
  John Ventimiglia
  Danny Masterson

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