(director: Josh Trank; screenwriter: Max Landis/based on a story by Mr.
Landis and Mr. Trank; cinematographer: Matthew
Jensen; editor: Elliot Greenberg; music: Andrea von
Foerster; cast: Dane
DeHaan (Andrew Detmer), Alex Russell (Matt Garetty),
Michael B. Jordan (Steve Montgomery), Michael Kelly
(Richard Detmer), Bo Petersen (Karen Detmer), Ashley
Hinshaw (Casey Letter), Anna Wood (Monica);
Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: John Davis/Adam Schroeder;
20the Century Fox; 2012)
"Another one of those cheaply made shaky hand-held camera found-footage flicks."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Another one of those cheaply made shaky hand-held camera found-footage flicks, whose roots stem from The Blair Witch Project. It's about teens in a big jam. Filmmaker Josh Trank makes his feature film directorial debut. The 26-year-old Max Landis (son of director John) co-writes it with the 26-year-old Trank. The whole thing is supposed to appear natural, of a loser teenager student getting an inexpensive video camera and filming his abusive home life and banal personal life--in other words using the camera to accurately chronicle his miserable life.
The action picks up when three high school students in Seattle, the brainy Matt Garetty (Alex Russell), his nerdy loner cousin Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) and the popular black football star and cool aspiring school student president Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan) discover a deep hole in the woods, while attending a barn rave, and explore the depths of the hole where they locate a glowing crystal and receive from it supernatural powers. The immature lads are not sure of what to do with such great powers and decide to become pranksters, using their newly acquired telekinetic powers to do such things as to move a car in a shopping mall parking lot and laugh at the driver trying to find her car when returning from shopping. The most troubled student is the introverted socially awkward Andrew: his terminally ill mother (Bo Petersen) is dying while attached to an oxygen tank and can't afford to pay for her medicines to kill the pain; his abusive drunken father (Michael Kelly) is always angry at him and blames him for everything. The dysfunctional family situation leaves the emotionally unbalanced Andrew friendless and unable to fit into the high school scene.
The pic follows the superhero
Marvel premise of a young man suddenly possessed of
forced to change his life to help those not as
fortunate; but in this case, Andrew is too emotionally
disturbed to use the powers to do good and instead is
determined to get revenge on the bullies who picked on
him and in using the city as his playground to act out
his childish impulses. Things are ok so far, but
deflate into hokum when Andrew separates from the
other two and becomes vengeful, destructive and filled
with hubris, refusing help from the more stable Matt
and causing havoc to his community by becoming an
apex predator who bombs a hospital and flies around the Space Needle with law
enforcement in pursuit.
The slickly made
gimmicky film, seen through Andrew's p.o.v. and video
camera, is modestly entertaining. It gets across its
that acquiring superpowers are not worth much if your
values and character are not developed and that anger
management is essential for any one, but especially
for those on a power trip. But when it aims to shoot
territory, its philosophy lessons appear on the lite
side. Nevertheless it works out fine if one is in the
mood to see a dark sci-fi superhero flick whose
protagonists are flawed, as this playful one can also
be serious in telling us the boys need parental
support, something wholesome to believe in, love and
guidance more than they need superpower.
REVIEWED ON 2/8/2012 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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