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This year there’s been a lot of talk about superhero fatigue. But I’d take 10 more Green Lanterns over one more wannabe-superhero flick such as the Australian Griff the Invisible. Kick-Ass was novel. Super was quirky. Now Griff is just more of the same: Outcast feels the urge to protect his city, dons a homemade suit, becomes wanted by the police, reluctantly gains female sidekick. Yawn.
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In this iteration, Griff (True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten) is a mild-mannered office drone who’s constantly harassed by the workplace bully (Toby Schmitz). But his superheroing started long before his job misery. \\Griff already has sophisticated surveillance equipment and a decent-looking suit in which to twist criminals’ necks when the film begins; there are allusions to his having lost a previous job, which makes his brother, Tim (Patrick Brammall), move close by to keep an eye on him. Eventually, Tim starts dropping by with Melody (Maeve Dermody), a wonderfully weird girl he’s dating. Tim thinks things are swell, but Melody is bored by her beau’s normalcy. When she starts babbling about parallel universes one night at Griff’s place and finds out about what he does at night, it’s love.
Writer-director Leon Ford may have borrowed the broad strokes of Griff the Invisible (the title refers to his boss’ suggestion that Griff try to blend in), but its love story is at least unusual enough to separate it from its forebears. Some of it is maddening—there’s the usual “We can’t do this!” plot turn, abrupt and ridiculous—but most of it is ingratiating, thanks largely to Melody’s offbeat way of thinking. She conducts street surveys about street surveys, for example. And she believes that, because there’s space between molecules, under perfect circumstances she should be able to walk through walls. “Well, we just want you to be happy,” her dad says when she explains her theory.
Ford lends his film touches both fantastical (Melody and Griff’s world is make-believe—or is it?) and lyrical (voice-overs of poetry give sequences in which the pair separately work on experiments a lovely, chill energy). Things turn dark for a blink; Griff really is a disturbed individual. But the freaks-accepting-freaks angle is largely delivered with a light hand. If only we hadn’t seen the rest of the movie before.