Special

 
(i)

 

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.

Violence

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.

Sex

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

Language

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

Consumerism

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.

User reviews

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

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?

QUALITY
 

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
Genre:Drama
Run time:82 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language, some violence and brief drug use

This review of Special was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Gentle tearjerker about sudden mental superpowers.
  • Terrific acting by Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Write a user reviewThere aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass