As Jerry Maguire says towards the end of that rightly lauded film, “we live in a cynical world. A cynical world”. In a world that has recently given us superhero films disguised as Oscar-baiting crime epics (The Dark Knight) and knowing, self-referential outings like Super and Kick-Ass, it is all too easy to dismiss a film like Somebody’s Hero. Pick a soft target – that slightly bland title, the obvious plot beats and character arcs, the cheerful, optimistic, hope-fuelled tone – there is much to criticize.
However, if you can get past those instincts, those inclinations, there is so much to enjoy here. Yes, Dennis Sullivan is impossibly nice, good natured and selfless. Yes, you can see where it’s going from five minutes in. Yes, the current vogue is for this genre to go darker, more gritty. But that should be beside the point. Here is a genuine, sweet, heartfelt film, aiming for a family audience and putting a warm smile on your face if you’ll let it.
The pacing is just fine, the film wisely choosing not to outstay its’ welcome with a brisk, but eventful 85 minute running time. Surprisingly, but very effectively, there is genuine consideration and discussion of whether an ill-equipped but sincere vigilante is setting an irresponsible example for young children, with Katie Wells’ back-story fleshing out her objections, which turn out to be more than merely philosophical or theoretical.
Although I have duly noted the impossible/improbable niceness (and indeed availability) of Sullivan, Gorham plays him straight, by turns sympathetic, touching, thoughtful and funny. Jake remains a little more two-dimensional, but to expect a young child actor to play a withdrawn, hurting kid and flesh him out in fully-formed tones seems to me to be asking a bit much.
Writer/Director Darin Beckstead draws good performances for the most part, bringing us nothing especially flashy, but marrying the style and tone well to the material and delivering a creditable end product on what it seems safe to assume was a modest budget.
If you go into Somebody’s Hero looking for a film to redefine your expectations from superhero films, family dramas or anything else, you will no doubt come away wondering what on earth I saw fit to commend to you, but if you can shed that cynicism, let your guard down and enjoy it for what it is, I’m sure you’ll have as good a time with it as I did.
Somebody’s Hero screened at the Newport Beach International Film Festival in the US at the beginning of May. There are no further release details on IMDb yet, but keep an eye on the official site for the film, where no doubt more details will emerge in due course.