Thursday, July 17, 2008


On the eve of the opening day of the Dark Knight, a movie projected to make over $100 million dollars in just a weekend, it seems that superhero movies are all over the place. Just this summer alone we've seen Iron Men, Raging Hulks, Superman as played by Will Smith, and the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. So with the Caped Crusader and a Joker hopped up on prescription drugs looming in the shadows, it's sometimes easy to overlook the smaller films.

With a smaller profile, indie budget, and cast of relative unknowns, Sidekick is easily able to present a closer-to-true-life experience than any big budget superhero movie. The sheer fact that it doesn't have to curtail big name actor demands and market research means we get an uncorrupted story without a tacked on third act like Hancock.

In Sidekick, we meet up with Norman, the kind of comic book geek you only really see on TV or in movies. Let's face it, readers: us Ice Anvil writers are geeks, too. But one of the very qualities of geekdom is to seek out other geeks to geek around with. Surely a geek is not worth his salt unless he finds a group of like minded social misfits to debate the logistics of time travel or clones with. In movies, however, the geek is a lonely creature who somehow manages to live completely alone, devoid except for one other person who tolerates him.

That person who happens to tolerate Norman this time around? None other than Celebrity Rehab-star Daniel Baldwin, obviously appearing because he needed beer money and they could film all his scenes in a day. So Baldwin plays Chuck, owner of the local comic book store no one but Norman seems to go to. They sit around apparently for hours debating what superpower they'd have if they had a superpower. Once again, the movie steers clear of the one true geek answer to that question: empathy. The power to have every power trumps x-ray vision or super strength any day.

Norman works for the local finance firm where he spends all day sitting in the storage closet with the lights turned off, staring into a laptop that apparently denotes him maintaining the company's internal servers. Every once in a while he'll leave his dank supply cave to get a brisk mug of tea to give him the energy he needs to continue to sit upright staring at almost nothing.

It's at just such an excursion that Norman meets Victor for the first time. Victory is the big man at the firm if high school stereotypes are to be believed. He can drink anyone under the table and is willing to sexually harass a woman to win a bet. A real man's man is what we call that. While grabbing his coffee cup over Norman's head, even an all-around great guy like Victor slips up, and quickly loses grip on the fine ceramic mug. Luckily for him, he has the power of telekinesis and quickly grabs it with his mind, in plain sight of Norman. Norman, of course, being the last possible person in the world you'd want to expose secret superhuman abilities to.

Predictably, Norman quickly drops everything else in his life (it didn't take long) to stalk Victor around trying to witness his powers in use again. At the company's softball game that weekend, he notices that Victor never misses a pitch. Yet when he tries to videotape it, the use of Victor's powers apparently EM pulse the tape, distorting it just as they are being used.

Done admiring his new mancrush from afar, Norman tries to subtle approach and offers to train Victor. Somehow reading comic books will give Norman that skill he needs to teach someone with an actual skill on how to use them. Victor quickly gives Norman the brush off since he likes just being the office dick and would rather not be the office dick who also prances around in tights at night.

Later that evening, after getting drunk at a local bar, Victor and his friend Chase are thrown out, probably after lifting a girl's skirt to see what kind of panties she's wearing on a dare. After peeing in an alley, Chase decides he's had his fill of drinking and peeing for the night and begins to head home. Victor, never tired of drinking and urinating in public, calls his friend a lightweight for giving in so early. Chase turns around and starts gaybashing his best friend, as a situation such as this warrants no doubt. However, Chase forgot about two vital things: 1. the upcoming curb and B. gravity. He quickly finds himself tumbling to the street in probably the movie's worst special effect. After the strain of slowly falling in the most safe position possible in front of a camera, Chase apparently decides to rest up and take a nap right there on 23rd street as a nearby car just happens to be driving by. Victor leaps out to use his mind bullets to stop the car only to miss by about 4 feet and completely screw up a street sign. Chase, as the red-colored corn syrup will attest, is dead meat.

So on comes the second act where Victor feels remorse for not being able to save Chase, gives into Norman's creepy man fantasies, and they start training up. What they are training for seems to be oblivious to Victor, though. That is until Norman, like the bipolar freak that he is, decides to throw himself in front of an oncoming car to prove to Victor that he has full control over his powers. Really, Sidekick is as much a movie about superpowers as it is crippling manic depression apparently.

With Norman saved and Victor feeling pretty confident that he won't let another friend die to the terrible social plague known as traffic, Norman whips out a freakishly mysterious box. Inside is a costume Norman has been slaving over for weeks for Victor to wear while they go around stopping the crime we know is sweeping the streets of Toronto. It's at this point that I believe even Victor can see through the superhero shenanigans and full comprehends just how creepy Norman's obsession with him could be, since he throws the box down and walks away.

But true love never really walks away. Within seconds Victor is back and willing to try patrolling the Canadian mean streets for evil if only for one night. Norman, so excited that he can no longer stand up without a book to cover said excitement, grabs his coat and it's off to the races. Sadly, the Canadian Mounted Police are just too effective as our superfriends find a serious lack of bank robberies or muggings to stop. They settle on a gang of adults who are apparently loitering on the street. The gang decides to strike the wasp nest with a stick and call Norman and Victor gay. This sends Victor into a passive aggressive rage as he uses his Jedi mind tricks to grab two of the thugs and make them make out with each other. That would probably be enough to prove his point thoroughly, but to totally prove to this guys he's not gay, Victor decides to force one guy to give the other oral festivities. Yes, Victor, way to prove to the scarred thugs you aren't homosexual by forcing them to perform gay porn for you. At this point, even Norman is a little creeped out and forced Victor to stop just before the climax.

Thus begins Victor's descent into madness as he realizes he is practically unstoppable. Thankfully for Victor, he has a moment at the office to prove how unstoppable he is, as there's a hostage situation at gunpoint. It seems the idiot office asshole we only really met once for about 3 seconds was embezzling money, so he kidnapped the CEO and is holding him in a conference room. Rather than call the police or actually do anything to pro-actively protect their boss' life, all the office workers scurry to the door of the room to listen in. Victor is able to mosey on in without a problem, get the asshole to let his boss go, and close the door behind the boss without anyone thinking twice. He then leaves the room 20 seconds later with the gun-welding maniac unconscious with his head smashed on the office table... again, without anyone thinking twice.

Now completely mad with power, Victor kidnaps the office receptionist and forces Norman to help him finish out the now-out-of-the-picture embezzler's plan. While hacking into the company's bank account online, Norman casually gets Victor drunk and passed out and is able to strap him to an office chair using scotch tape, throwing in even more homo-erotic overtones to their friend. Just as he's about to put Victor away for good by turning him into the cops, however, Victor wakes up and tries to push him down an open elevator shaft, apparently a growing epidemic in the fabled Canadas. Luckily for Norman, the receptionist is there to clobber Victor in the skull with a fire extinguisher, becoming the true hero of the story. We end our movie on the traditional To Be Continued note, however, as the cops don't believe in telekinesis as much as Norman does and Victor easily breaks out of the hospital room a lone cop is guarding wearing only an open-in-the-back hospital gown.

Sidekick, for as much as I give it guff in this review, is definitely a movie seething with love for comics and superheroes. It's obvious that the writer and director know their stuff and try to make the most out of a shoestring budget. The movie, though, suffers from horrible timing, coming out right before the start of the TV show Heroes. With a bigger budget and the ability to tell a larger story over greater time, Heroes has developed the villain with telekinesis into an antihero with almost as many fans as any do-gooder on the show. And with said bigger budget, Sylar is able to do way more on Heroes with his powers than Victor is able to do in Sidekick. Really, when you watch a man slice open someone's skull with his finger telekinetically, the same ol' "forcing people to punch themselves" routine just seems like old hat.