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Eccentric, depressing thriller won't grab teens' attention.
  • Review Date: November 21, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 82 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A character seems quite depressed and takes part in a clinical drug trial hoping to be cured of his malaise. But instead, his life grows more complicated and even dangerous.


Les knocks people down if he thinks they're up to no good, regardless of what's really happening. A mysterious duo threatens him; a man stabs another with a pencil, and the aftermath is quite bloody. A man beats up two others with a stick. One driver deliberately runs over another.


Les has a crush on the girl at the convenience store, but nothing happens.


Frequent swearing, including 'a--hole,' 'bitch,' 's--t,' 'piss,' and 'f--k.'


Signage for a convenience store, banks, and a news broadcast logo.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The main character takes part in a clinical trial for an anti-depressant drug. Supporting characters are shown smoking dope.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this depressing indie drama/fantasy -- which stars Michael Rappaport of Boston Public and Prison Break -- focuses on the side effects of an experimental drug that prove quite disturbing, and some scenes will be too much for younger teens and kids. Characters use drugs, and there's some upsetting violence -- including an attack with a pencil has a bloody aftermath -- as well as a fair amount of swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t") and a pervasive sense of disorientation and isolation.

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What's the story?

Les Franken (Michael Rappaport) is a parking meter cop who's lonely and depressed -- and sick of it, so he signs up as a test subject for a drug that will hopefully cure him of his ills. But he soon discovers that he can levitate and, later, fly like the superheroes in the comic books he loves. And there's more: He can also phase through walls and hear people's thoughts. In no time, he's fashioning a costume and coming to people's rescue. Has he really developed superpowers as a side effect of the medication, or is he going crazy? And, if so, is he trouble now that the drug's viability may be in jeopardy because of him?

Is it any good?


SPECIAL isn't at all special. Ambitious, yes. Its attempt to link mental illness and medication to superheroes is an interesting intellectual exercise. Lyrical even, at least visually in some parts. But the film moves along at snail's pace, interspersed with frankly creepy moments.

Though Rappaport gives Les a good go, his earnestness and efforts don't save the film (he deserves a better movie). Had Special focused on its central idea, it would have been far more successful. But it veers into pseudo-thriller territory -- corporate misdeeds gone way awry -- and loses what little steam it manages to gather in the early stages. Special is, in fact, a mess.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about mental illnesses and how drugs are used to treat them. What is the movie trying to say about the situation? Is Les crazy, or did the drugs make him act crazy? What is the movie saying about loneliness? Is Les a sympathetic character or a creepy one? What would it feel like to be in his shoes?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 21, 2008
DVD release date:March 31, 2009
Cast:Josh Peck, Michael Rapaport, Paul Blackthorne
Directors:Hal Haberman, Jeremy Passmore
Studio:Magnolia Pictures
Run time:82 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language, some violence and brief drug use

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