Something like the soapbox derby car of superhero comedies, Craig Mazin’s The Specials skirts the edge of professionalism, one-upping Mystery Men‘s yuk factor even as it shoots for being the most crudely made indie of the year. Mazin, whose fratboy scripts were turned into the not-unamusing Rocket Man and Senseless, barely manages a charcoal-sketch fluency. But James Gunn’s script must come off like a pack of firecrackers on the page, where the jokes aren’t starved for oxygen. Here, the titular third-rate superhero team hang out in their scrubby suburban office, bickering and lamenting their superpowers, which they never get an opportunity to display. The only gift that The Weevil (Rob Lowe) seems to have is to attract fans and women, while stuffy team leader/electromagnetizer Strobe (Thomas Haden Church) struggles to maintain a sense of moral decorum. Amok (Jamie Kennedy) is a punky antimatter source, Deadly Girl (Judy Greer) a Goth brooder soured by her ability to summon the dead, Minute—that’s mine-oot—Man (Gunn) a bashful self-shrinker whose name needs revamping, and so on. The movie is in clover with one-liners, delivered like one-liners: Mr. Smart (Jim Zulevic) howling behind his olfactory gadgetry (“I smell everything!”); Strobe’s businessman brother (Barry Del Shannon) stumping for a normal life and still utilizing his powers (“Hey, I ran here from Yemen this morning”); the ruefully noted incidence of cancer among crusaders with stretching talents. Wittily conceived but clumsy as a newborn calf, The Specials has a box of ideas it never uses—here’s hoping for a Gilliam remake.
Remaking Prince of Central Park hasn’t helped anybody. A stinky dumpster for sentimental dung about homelessness and the magical mecca that isn’t Manhattan, John Leekley’s boogie thru the old Evan Rhodes chestnut can make your corneas ache. Frankie Nasso is the orphan who escapes his venomous foster mother (Cathy Moriarty) to live in Central Park under the tutelage of a pointy-bearded troll who lives in a secret cave (Harvey Keitel, I swear to God), and eventually warms to an emotionally fractured mom (Kathleen Turner). If you’re not seduced with the prospect of Moriarty and Turner whiskey-growling at each other in court over the boy, you’re somewhere else.