Alter Egos (2012) / Comedy-Fantasy

MPAA rated: R for drug use, brief sexuality, violence and language
Length: 80 min.

Cast: Kris Lemche, Joey Kern, Brooke Nevin, Danny Masterson, John Ventimiglia, Christine Evangelista
Director: Jordan Galland
Screenplay: Jordan Galland
Review published January 5, 2013

Alter Egos 2012 Kris LemcheAlter Egos imagines an alternate Earth in which superheroes have existed and have been funded by the government to fight super-villains. Except that super-villains have all been eradicated or imprisoned for the last 10 years, thus creating little need for the government to continue to support superheroes, who now seem to cause more hassles than help.

Kris Lemche (In Time, Final Destination 3) stars as Brendan, who is also part of the superhero community as 'Fridge' due to his ability to shoot cold blasts from his hand. Brendan's been down of late, as it seems his girlfriend Emily (Evangelista, The Joneses) has been cheating on him -- with himself -- as she has engaged in an affair with his superhero self, while his human alter ego she mostly gives the, uh, cold shoulder to.  While on an assignment in the Hamptons with fellow Super Corps partner in (fighting) crime, C-Thru (Kern, Grind), who has x-ray vision, he means to put an end to his relationship via email, but can't get the girl running the main office of the inns, Claudel (Nevin, Infestation), to let him use the internet.  Well, not as Fridge, but when she meets Brendan, he becomes more to her liking.

Alter Egos operates on a fairly low budget, and though it isn't too far off from the specs of many independently produced features, the film shows just how difficult it is to make an adequate superhero film without enough resources to put behind costumes and special effects. The FX shots are minimal, though not shabby when it comes to Fridge's blast of cool, but the instances you see an effects shot are few and far between. C-Thru's power is fairly low-tech, only really giving us the impression of x-ray vision when he glances at someone who suddenly appears before him in their underwear. While the effects are passable when they do occur, the costumes look unconvincing, like do-it-yourself Halloween fare, and the masks are particularly gaudy and ill-fitting.  If this were merely a highly campy spoof, it could be forgiven, but the world created by writer-director Jordan Galland (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead) wants us to laugh at these characters while also taking them and their peculiar universe seriously at the same time.

The real downside to this low-budget indie comes through its one-location shoot in and around the Hampton Maid hotel in rural Long Island, New York. There are interior and exterior shots, but, with the exception of a couple of flashbacks, always within the same basic location.  Oddly, there doesn't appear to be anyone else staying at the establishment other than those who appear in the film.  The only other person from outside that we see is the occasional visit from Jimmy (Masterson, Yes Man), a cop with an axe to grind against the Super Corps for not being impressed with his rather useless superpower, as he can turn invisible for less than three seconds at a time.  As the scope is limited, it's the kind of script and subsequent shoot that could have just as easily been a stage play as it is a movie.

The likeable actors do what they can with some fairly thin characterizations, while Galland encounters some turbulence meshing the two tones of the film, the light romantic comedy with the heavy-handed death of Brendan's superhero parents and its subsequent revenge angle. There are a few mildly humorous moments, but by and large, the comedy lays flat much of the time, and Brendan's constant moping doesn't make for much of a fun watch, especially as his less-than-interesting insecurities consist of most of his dialogue.  In many ways, it reminds me of the geeky amateur tone of Kevin Smith's Mallrats, though striving for far less in terms of gags, with its nebbish and angsty young cast and comic book tie-ins.  Not surprisingly, Kevin Smith's company, Smodcast Pictures via Phase 4, picked up the rights to Alter Egos and distributed it.

The film takes a turn for something more serious later in the film, introducing Shrink (Ventimiglia, Series 7: The Contenders) a man with the power to control minds, and a rare villain in that he is the man responsible for the death of Fridge's parents.  Galland adds a few interesting twists to the story, but all the same, the shift in tone and focus of the film feels incongruous with the very light romantic dialogue that permeated the first half of the storyline. 

Alter Egos might have made for an interesting one-shot comic book, or perhaps a YouTube short,  as there really isn't enough here to fill out a full-length feature, even at a minimal 80-minute run time.  Galland shows some promise working within the confines of a limited budget, but the occasionally smart script is, at once, too wide in scope for its meager means, and not substantive enough to maintain enough viewer interest, particularly as the "superhero with real-world romantic problems" satire has been done many times in TV show skit and comic book formats.  Still, it would be nice to see what Galland could do with more money at his disposal, as many of the problems seem to be the result of limited funds. 

Nevertheless, the film is what it is, and with only a few mild laughs and attempts to thrill that will raise no heart rates, Alter Egos is likely to find few receptive audiences outside of comic-con regulars looking for a few low-grade yuks.
Qwipster's rating:

©2013 Vince Leo