Cinema Epoch // 2009 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // December 30th, 2010
A hero will rise.
Making movies is hard work. Making movies with very little money or resources is even harder work. These little-seen independent movies are, most often, incredibly personal passion projects; they exist because their writers and directors felt a burning need to tell a singular story and get it out in the hopes of being seen. No one makes Transformers 3 because they feel any passion about the material. That movie gets made so everyone can collect a paycheck. A micro-budget indie movie like Missy and the Maxinator, on the other hand, is clearly a labor of love for everyone involved.
While that gives the movie a certain kind of charm and certainly makes this particular writer more willing to overlook some of its shortcomings, I would still be lying if I said Missy and the Maxinator was terribly successful at achieving even its modest goals. It's sweet, yes, and inoffensive to be sure, but it's also poorly paced and confusingly written and, I'm sorry to say, not particularly well acted by its mostly teenage ensemble. I don't mind that the cast feels inexperienced; that's to be expected. Unfortunately, though, a movie like this requires natural charm and presence from the cast to help elevate the material and draw the viewer in (it's even more important in little movies like this, since the director is missing the bag of tricks available on Hollywood productions). For the most part, everything in Missy and the Maxinator feels inert.
I get what writer/director Daniel J. Lynch was trying to do: the movie is essentially Unbreakable in a high school. Geeky Max (Kevin Winters) has had a crush on his best friend Missy (Colleen Lynch) for most of their lives, but she's dating a jerk named Bob and won't allow Max out of the friend zone. When Max begins to develop strange super powers, though, he discovers a good way of getting Missy's attention. At the same time, one of Max's teachers reveals himself as an evil genius responsible for a number of the world's past disasters (more than a few shades of Mr. Glass). It's only a matter of time before the superhero and the supervillain go head to head for the fate of the free world -- and, hopefully, the heart of Missy. (To be fair, the teacher isn't after Missy's heart. That would be gross, and one thing Missy and the Maxinator is not is gross.)
I'm pulling for a movie like Missy and the Maxinator, but the movie doesn't always make it easy. I've got a natural inclination to root for the underdog -- which this movie is -- and I'd like to think that if I was 10 years old, I wouldn't be concerned with the limitations of the performances and production values and would just be drawn into the story of a kid who becomes a superhero. I'd like to think that, but I'm not sure it's true. Ultimately, I think the movie is too slow and muddled to hold even a kid's interest. There are long stretches in which too little happens, and others in which major things happen in quick bursts (like most of the scenes in which Max discovers his powers) that don't have much impact. Many relationships are poorly defined. There's a strange kid (Josh Sukow) who appears to be stalking Max in the early moments, and just when you think he's going to factor into the plot (I expected him to the be the dumper of exposition -- the one explaining to Max exactly what was happening to him), the movie pretty much abandons him (which is a shame, since I was more interested in him than Max). Even the central relationship between Missy and Max is underdeveloped. We know they're best friends because the screenplay tells us that's the case, not because we see any evidence of a history between them. Same goes for the burgeoning romantic relationship between them. On the positive side, I like the idea of a movie about superhero kids (I like it a whole lot when it's called Sky High) and that director Lynch cast young people that look like real young people. These aren't movie kids. These are real kids.
Cinema Epoch's DVD of Missy and the Maxinator is a mixed bag. The 1.78:1 widescreen image is soft and noisy, but that's to be expected for a low budget effort. There's nothing that will distract from the movie and, all things considered, this is probably as good as the movie can look. The 5.1 surround audio track is far more problematic, and actually does actively hamper the movie. Dialogue is mixed very low and can be hard to hear, but as soon as you crank up your system to hear what's going on a music cue or action beat kicks in and blows your ears out. The surround channels are rarely put to any good use, either, save for those uneven instances; at those moments, you almost wish the whole mix had been kept up front. It's a mess of a mix, and it doesn't do this struggling film any favors.
Luckily, there's a decent supplementary section to pick up some of that slack. First up is a pair of commentaries: the first with writer/director Daniel J. Lynch and director of photography Justin Hayward, and the second with cast members Kevin Winters, Colleen Lynch and Neal Shea. The tracks couldn't be more different. Lynch and Winters are engaging and talk a lot about the experience of making a low-budget independent movie, offering a good deal of insight and tips for would-be filmmakers. The cast effort, on the other hand, is mostly a waste of time; there are long gaps of silence, and when the actors do speak up it's mostly to comment on what's happening on screen or to reference some inside joke from the production. It's easy to cut them slack, as none of them had ever acted in a movie much less record a commentary track (despite what many people might think, it is a definite -- and, in some instances, acquired -- skill), but that doesn't make the track any more interesting. Stick with the first one.
Also available are a handful of deleted scenes (also playable with optional commentary from Lynch), a gallery of production stills and the film's trailer.
I don't want to bag on Missy and the Maxinator, because its heart is so clearly in the right place. I know that this DVD release is exciting for everyone involved with the film, who will finally get to own a physical copy of this thing that they all worked so hard on. That's terrific. At the same time, my responsibility is to you, the reader, to whom I cannot recommend the movie. Rent (or, better yet, buy) Sky High instead. As much as I want to champion the little guys, sometimes they just aren't able to compete with what Hollywood can do.
Review content copyright © 2010 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Epoch
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Image Gallery
* Official Site