The only thing moodier than a teenager is a dying teenager. “Life is a sexually transmitted disease,” says Donald (Thomas Sangster), the cancer-stricken, attitudinizing 15-year-old hero of Death of a Superhero who broods, misbehaves, and expresses himself through the Sin City-like characters that fill his sketchbooks (and which he occasionally graffitis); director Ian Fitzgibbon intersperses animations throughout the film featuring the characters Donald creates: a troubled superhero (a version of himself), a twisted villain (his disease), and a voluptuous femme (who embodies his pubescent fantasies).
Unfortunately, every character they represent feel exhaustingly formulaic, every drama and plot twist—like the new girl at school who’s not like all the other girls—stemming not organically from the characters but imposed by convention. So why even bother with it? Well, Andy Serkis, as wonderful in the flesh as he is when motion-captured, co-stars as Donald’s rumpled, iconoclastic therapist, the only one of many adults who can really get through to the boy by giving him a tough love approach that’s sympathetic but not indulgent or pussyfooted. Basically, he’s doing Robin Williams’ character from Good Will Hunting, which was a great part—so why wouldn’t you want to see a great actor like Serkis feel it out?
Death of a Superhero has its Tribeca debut Friday afternoon, and will be screened again Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. More info here.
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