Growing up, just how many of you wanted to be, or during “play time” pretended to be, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, the Boy Wonder Robin, or even the villainous Riddler, Joker or Pruneface? I am willing to bet, a lot of you (and that group includes both of my brothers). Let’s face it -to kids – and even to adults – super heroes with super powers is a pretty cool thing. And how many of you dreamt these big dreams or had these fantasies thanks to reading comic books; comic books that were vividly illustrated, with characters, stories and cool costumes leaping off the page and into your imagination? But then, how many of you were more inspired by the comic books that translated into cartoon or live action tv series like “Batman”? Yep. I see it. I see those nostalgic grins of embarrassment as you relive those days of running around the house with a blanket tied around your neck, playing super hero, defending the world, conquering evil and, oh yes, tormenting your siblings and parents with your super powers of childhood fun and annoyance. And as you well know, the cape was everything! So now, here we are in the 21st Century. Imagine just how fun it would be to relive those memories now up on the silver screen. Well, thanks to the inspired imagination (and love of super heroes, cartoons, comics, classics, film and fun), Ray Griggs dons his writer/director super hero cape, puts the best of comics, tv and film together, and brings us what is destined to become a camp classic for the ages with SUPER CAPERS! Talk about fun!!!
Ed Gruberman is your average guy who just wants to be a super hero. So enthralled is he with the whole super hero, super powers thing, that as his job he dresses up as “Ed Gruber Man – Super Hero.” With his bright yellow ill-fitting spandex suit emblazoned with a green sequined “G” (stitched on in red) , flashy red cape and, dare I say, green wading boots, Gruber Man is a formidable force – not. A geek to the Nth degree, Ed’s heart may be in the right place but his skills are far from it – he has none – mortal or otherwise. But what does a wannabe super hero do while still in “uniform” when he spies a fiery red-headed damsel in distress. Why, step right in and defend the lady from her vicious tormenter, a balding middle-aged unarmed robber, of course! Taking the bull by the horns, Gruber Man leaps into action only to be flattened like a pancake and then saved by the damsel herself who just happens to have some rather amazing super powers, not to mention a super kiss. But, being a hero, or trying to be one, isn’t all that its cracked up to be as Ed finds himself getting arrested for “super hero brutality” and his damsel having exited the crime scene. Hmmm.
Brought up before “The Judge” (who wears a robe that looks more like Lucifer’s black and red cloaken cover – and ironically our filmmaker has an earlier film called “Lucifer”), Ed warms the cockles of The Judge’s heart with his life story, the death of his circus performing parents and his need to avenge their deaths. Inspired by Ed’s tale of woe, but more interested in Ed’s admiration and worship for the ubber comic book hero, The Dark Winged Vesper, The Judge orders Ed to attend super hero school. Comprised of mostly superhero misfits, the Super Capers as they are called, travel in their silver Delorean-styled time travelling RV, honing their super hero skills and powers. Super Caper Felicia Freeze can create ice and snow with her breathe. Herman Brainard, the hero with the oversized bulbous brain, can telepathically move objects by making his brain grow bigger. At the slightest sign of fear or danger, Puffer Boy turns into a roly-poly Puffer Fish who can only be deflated by pulling on one of his spikes. Robo is a cigar smoking pint-sized robot with Terminator sized muscles (and who sounds amazing like California’s governor) who assures us on every scene exist that he’ll be back. Will Powers, well, beyond making sure his hair looks perfect at all times and every muscle bugle is in place, he has super human strength. Herbert Q is the “Q” in the group, designing and building devices that would rival those of James Bond’s Q – not. And then there’s Sarge, the overseer of this merry band of misfits.
Called on for their first mission, Super Capers head out to thwart the evil plan of Captain Sludge and his sidekick Cretan in their attempts to steal an armored care of gold bouillon. With each hero taking their own crack at Sludge, it quickly falls to Gruber Man to finally display his super power to not only save the day, but save the super heroes. (Seems that if you know Will Power’s weakness – calling him fat or unhandsome – he becomes a worthless cry baby.) But what is Ed’s super power? To his knowledge he has none and so he calls on the only power he can think of at the moment, the power of prayer – well, a prayer not be killed. Talk about miracles! Prayer works. Bad guys foiled. But, bad guys also escape incurring some wrath from LAPD, who are more interested in Will Powers’ autograph than the crime scene. And who else makes a surprise visit, none other than The Judge who appears on the scene to congratulate his little protegees. Hmmm…. something doesn’t seem right – at least to Gruber Man.
With the help of Brainard, the two begin their own investigation into the gold heist, only to soon find Ed framed for the heist and Super Capers shut down. Lost and alone with nowhere to go, the group rallies together to save Ed, in whose innocence they believe (after all, he does have the power of prayer), and work together determined to discover the true villain in our story. As Ed travels back in time in the Delorean RV, long hidden secrets (including who is that vivacious red-headed damsel in distress) and surprising discoveries all come to light as we all get yet another fun-filled crime fighting lesson.
Where do I start when talking about this cast? Carefully chosen for their own super powers, each is significant to the film in their own right starting with Justin Whalin. Best known for his role as Jimmy Olsen in tv’s “Lois and Clark”, Whalin is geeky fun as Ed Gruberman (who, thankfully, thanks to Q, gets a better super hero suit, albeit from the Warner Bros. and bearing a strong resemblance to a Star Wars storm trooper suit). Exuding a sincere innocence but with over-the-top camp emotion, he is hysterical and never moreso than when “in prayer.” Danielle Harris, fresh off her stints in “Halloween 4 and 5″ is charming as Felicia Freeze. She brings a super hero bravura akin to Wonder Woman but a girlish innocence when it comes to Felicia’s affections for Gruber Man. Ryan McPartlin, recognizable from tv’s “Chuck” is perfect as the narcissistic Will Powers. With an ego puffed up bigger than his hair or his chest, McPartlin brings an appreciative level of self-deprecating humor to the character. And don’t miss Ray Griggs himself as Puffer Boy which I guarantee will bring out a hearty laugh when he puffs into action.
Our villains are no slouches either. Doug Jones, the lovable “Abe Sapien” in “Hellboy” plays Special Agent Smith #1, aide de camp to The Judge. Looking very much like Smith and Jones in “Men in Black”, Jones’ one note monotone throughout brings a laugh at every turn. Joining him as Special Agent Smith #2 is Isaac Singleton who you may remember as Bosun in “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Coen Brothers favorite Jon Polito is a kick in the ass as Captain Sludge and plays role with the most villainous camp. But are three best villainous performances come from Tom Sizemore, Michael Rooker and the wonderful, Christine Lakin. Sizemore steals every scene as attorney Roger Cheatem. Buffoonish and cartoonish, he is the epitome of sleazy lawyer, even settling his client’s case for $1.00. Michael Rooker who has done everything from good cop to bad cop to best friend to serial killer rolls everything all into one here as The Judge. But not only does he dispense justice and oversee the Super Capers, he also has a secret identity which I will not reveal here. Dichotomous, mysterious and quite funny, Rooker gives one of the most elaborate performances of his career. And then there’s Christine Lakin. You may remember her as tomboy “Al” on “Step By Step” or as “the nottie” to Paris Hilton’s “hottie” in last year’s “The Hottie & The Nottie.” Well, hold on to your hats because as Red, Lakin shows a side of herself we’ve never seen. Confident, sexy, mysterious, her eyes just draw you to the screen (and for you guys, so will her form fitting spandex outfit). When I talked to her last year, she was raving about shooting SUPER CAPERS and her excitement over playing a character with super powers.
And talk about cameos!!! Be on the lookout for a delightful cameo from that first lady lost in space, June Lockhart, who plays the mother to end all mothers to Herbert Brainard. Even Clint Howard gets in on the act as the mugger. And George Stults, the dreamy to-die-for cop turned house husband in “7th Heaven” parodies his former role here as an autograph seeking LAPD officer. But fans around the globe will get the biggest charge out of seeing a certain black Batmobile now being operated as an air conditioned taxi by a man who once played the beloved “Man Bat” (as he is called here) and who bears more than a striking resemblance to none other Batman himself, Adam West.
One of the most memorable things Lakin talked about with me was the fact that with SUPER CAPERS, “everyone wanted to do the film just for fun of it. No one was here ‘for the job.’” On seeing the film, her assessment is obvious as the permeating sense conveyed by writer/director Ray Griggs is FUN, and it shows in the performances. Not rocket science or a film with hidden subconscious messages, SUPER CAPERS is a classic “B” film tempered with spoofing while paying homage to iconic characters and films. If you’ve been paying attention to this review, by now you should have picked up on numerous films, characters and tv shows that Griggs clearly loves as they are the basis of the film. Key to the fun of SUPER CAPERS though is Griggs’ casting of recognizable iconic actors from beloved tv shows. Campy, but for the most part avoiding corny, there are a few “dry” patches in the script and action that could have been a bit tighter, but even during those down times, you find yourself looking for hints and clues and strategic placement of iconic pieces of film history. And kudos to Alys Thompson’s set decoration and Scott Enge’s production design. One look and you know what their viewing history is because neither misses a beat on touchstones.
Significant to the fun of SUPER CAPERS is the score. Composer Nathan Lanier melds just enough chords and notes to make the music and its connection identifiable to its point of origination (“Back to the Future”, “Star Wars”, “Indiana Jones”, to name a few), all of which just adds to the overall enjoyment. And for a closing theme? What else but that from “The Greatest American Hero”, which was one of the first tv shows I worked on.
Recognizable actors. Recognizable and connectable heroes and villains. Good versus evil. Adept versus inept. There is something for everyone. But above all, there’s fun. SUPER CAPERS is super fun!!!!!
Ed Gruberman – Justin Whalin
Red – Christine Lakin
Felicia Freeze – Danielle Harris
The Judge – Michael Rooker
Roger Cheatem – Tom Sizemore
Written and directed by Ray Griggs.