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I Was a Teenage Superhero Sidekick
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by Jay Seaver

"Ground-bound but still pretty good."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2015 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: The trick to something like "I Was a Teenage Superhero Sidekick" is to do at least a little more than just poke fun at comic-book clichés, both because there's no real accomplishment in replacing fun with smugness and because over seventy-five years of growing superhero universes, the various publishers and individual crappies have done every bit of self-examination and mockery there is, and emphasized their point with rampaging robot dinosaurs that an indie comedy can't afford. Filmmaker J. Hanna had better be able to do more than point and laugh, which Fortunately turns out to be the case.

The former sidekick of the title is Larry (Barrett Mitchell), who dropped his "Kid Dynamic" identity some time ago and has been in therapy since. His shrink had just taken a job with the planet's premier super-team, requiring a relocation to their satellite headquarters, but refers him to a new doctor (Milena Mortati), whose methods involve more outdoor yoga than sitting on a couch. She sees trouble ahead with Larry's new girlfriend Susie (Emily Sandifer), an anti-superhero activist, and it will be difficult to hide that part of Larry's life with his ex-teammate Frog King (Andre Antwan) crashing on the couch after a series of ill -advised hookups with his nemesis Croc Queen (Nicol Razon) destroys his confidence.

Because Hanna is working with a tight budget, it's kind of difficult to get any kind of handle on what sort of scale the heroes and villains of this world operate - even the occasional drawn/animated sequence doesn't exactly present them as dealing with regular alien invasions - and that is a bit of a shortcoming. Monsters and mad scientists, somewhat paradoxically, can actually mean the story is more accessible and just being played out on a grand scale, while putting on tights and a mask to fight street crime in a world not unlike our own indicates a more extreme sort of personality. For the most part, Hanna deals with this by making sure that nobody really bats an eye at the heroes most of the time, and it tends to work just well enough for the movie to get by.

It does so largely on the strength of Barrett Mitchell, who comes at Larry with a dry delivery and dissatisfied attitude but mostly stops short of really oppressive sadness, making the guy more down than out. It's a nice line walked between treating weirdness as normal and still getting excited or incredulous enough to keep things funny. He doesn't overplay a hobby that one might not expect a former street vigilante to have, either, making those scenes a bit funnier. As much as his odd peculiar situation is the one to drive the movie, he makes a pretty good straight man for both Andre Antwan as the depressed-but-absurd Frog King and Emily Sandifer as a very excitable girlfriend.

There's more going on as well - both mentor Dynamic Man (Bill Ferris) and former teammate Electric Maiden (Eryn Joslyn) figured into his quitting the life - and Hanna does a fair job of balancing the need to have a story the audience can get invested in with not making things too heavy. It's also a good mix of goody superhero material with the mundane, although some elements do seem to trip them up. It is, for example, tremendously difficult to translate superhero costumes to live action on a budget, and this movie doesn't really escape them looking a bit too spoofy for things respected people use as uniforms.

A likable cast and a willingness to finish up well before the joke wears out its welcome can help stretch a comedy's success, and this movie happily features both. I won't lie, it could use a little more evidence that these guys live in a superhero world beyond one demonstration of the Inverse Ninja Law, but it's charming enough to be a fun little movie.

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originally posted: 03/27/15 00:33:37
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2015 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  J. Hanna

Written by
  J. Hanna

  Barrett Mitchell
  Emily Sandifer
  Milena Mortati
  Andre Antwan
  Bill Ferris

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