After a vacation hiatus, we return to a look at new openings at Ogden's Art House Cinema 502 this week including two films celebrating nerdy outcasts.
Leading off is the Slamdance 2011 documentary Superheroes, which explores the phenomenon of "real-life superheroes": people who put on costumes and patrol the streets of various cities (including Salt Lake City's own Black Monday Society). At the outset, it seems as though director Michael Barnett is going to go for the easiest possible gags at the expense of over-enthusiastic comic-book geeks, like juxtaposing the pudgy San Diego-based Mr. Xtreme's reference to his apartment as a place to "store his gear" with shots of piles of trash, or emphasizing the beer-drinking flirtiness of Orlando's Master Legend. But eventually the focus comes to rest on what's best about some of these guys: not a delusional quest to be vigilantes, but a simple need to do something when it's so easy to do nothing. By the time Barnett shows RLSH's from around North America gathered at San Diego's annual Comic-Con, not to attend panels but to feed the homeless, you may be a little emotional at the idea that anyone can be a hero.
The off-beat comedy Fred and Vinnie takes a different approach to humanizing the foibles of quirky guys, with less success. Actor/comedian Fred Stoller plays himself in a semi-autobiographical story about a friend named Vinnie D'Angelo (Angelo Tsarouchas) who moves out to Los Angeles, crashes with Fred ... then seems as though he might never leave. Director Steve Skrovan finds a few amusing moments in Stoller's passive-aggressive personality, including a particularly bad first date. But whatever the solitary Stoller is meant to have learned about being a friend and roommate is lost in Stoller's limited acting vocabulary, and the episodic events the film captures just aren't funny enough often enough. It's unintentionally ironic that Vinnie's hyperbolic reaction to Stoller's most mundane "adventure" is a belly laugh of "Unbelievable!"; the movie similarly seems to share the misguided belief that an over-reaction to driving in traffic is the stuff of high comedy.