Sad-Sack Superheroes

Written by John Blahnik on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts.


The recent boom of superhero movies has led to the
development of a subgenre: the superhero parody. And, at least at first, Leon
Ford’s debut feature looks like one of these uninspired comedies. Griff (Ryan
Kwanten, True Blood’s Jason Stackhouse)
is a crime fighter with problems. He works an office job at boring WW
Enterprises; his colleagues pick on him; police want to end to his vigilante
justice.

The film’s beginning is filled with effective but typical
jokes. Alone, Griff says things like, “It’s not a choice. It’s a responsibility,”
and in crowds, “Never fear, Griff is here,” a phrase he practices at home. He
spends a lot of time on rooftops. You wait for the jokes to get lame, but they
never do; they never get that funny either. Instead they start feeling… weird.

When Tony (Toby Schmitz), the main bully at work, becomes
implacable, Griff’s boss (Marshall Napier) tells him to become more invisible.
Griff doesn’t take it in the social sense. Invisible! That’ll be his new power.
He researches esoteric molecules online and then enters a hardware store. “Do
you know anything about invisible ink?” He leaves with a box of baking soda and
then mixes it with lemons in his bathtub.

This DIY incompetence, along with Griff’s pervasive
awkwardness, should tip off moviegoers to the truth: it’s all imaginary.
Without framing it as a miserable twist, Ford coolly reveals that his
protagonist is a 28-year-old man trapped in a 10-year-old’s fantasy, and what
at first seemed to be a superhero film is actually a melancholy portrait of the
maladjusted.

We wonder if this pathetic man will ever find happiness, and
a chance encounter with Melody (Maeve Dermody) suggests he might. Melody is
sort-of dating Griff’s brother (Patrick Bammall)—whose nice but fatuous mien
represents everything enervating about real life—but she is just as strange as
Griff. She conducts street surveys about street surveys. She protests protests.
An experimentalist, she is currently testing a theory by running into walls.

A wonderful piece of nerd courtship follows. Melody shows up
on Griff’s doorstep and he summons the courage to ask if she wants a glass of
water. “I’ll be right back,” he says, slamming the door and then reopening it,
glass of water in hand. “Isn’t it funny to think I just poured oxygen and
hydrogen into this hole in my face and soon it’ll be part of my body?” she
says. “That is, until I flush it out as waste.”

She encourages Griff’s heroics, and as his new sidekick
provides the film’s best comedy. “You can come out now,” she says after giving
him an improved invisibility suit. She is staring right past him and his
ridiculous outfit. “I’m right here.” “Oh my god. It’s working!”

Eventually the world disabuses Griff of his delusion and
forces him to choose between reality and a now conscious fantasy. “Cooking
classes,” he says in an execrable attempt at small talk, “judging by tonight’s
meal you certainly don’t need them!”

Early in the film, Griff’s boss gives a throwaway speech
that in retrospect gains resonance. “I used to be an odd fellow, too. But then
I started chatting with people. I tried to act normal. It felt weird at first
but soon one day it didn’t, and then I suddenly realized I had become normal.”

In a movie intentionally cluttered with dead clichés, a few
conceits stand vibrantly alive.

Griff the Invisible

Directed by Leon Ford

Running time: 93 min.

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