Everyman can be heroic in 'Somebody's Hero'

By Blair Howell

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, July 30 2012 5:54 p.m. MDT

Not all superheroes have to wear tights and capes. Well, sort of.

The first release from Backlit Pictures, “Somebody’s Hero” is written and directed by Darin Beckstead, and the straight-to-video release is also a first for Beckstead. Following his “Courage & Stupidity,” a short film well-received by fanboys on novice director Steven Spielberg’s taming of the mechanical shark while filming “Jaws,” “Somebody’s Hero” is Beckstead’s first full-length feature.

Somebody’s Hero” has a heartfelt lineage. The writer-director’s father gave him a print of the popular Liz Lemon Swindle painting, “Even Superman Needs a Dad.” After his father passed away, the movie became a tribute that first premiered on Father’s Day. Echoing his experiences, Beckstead created one of the main characters to be a young boy struggling to fill the void left by his deceased father.

In a stroke of luck, Beckstead snagged a first-rate actor as the titular hero. Christopher Gorham is a very likable actor and has created a unique niche for himself in Hollywood for characters who are slightly nerdy but eminently charming — the “adorkable” archetype. On the small screen, we’ve seen him in this role as a love interest for “Ugly Betty” and as Auggie Anderson, a CIA Special Projects tech operative who happens to be blind, in USA Network’s current hit, “Covert Affairs.” On the big screen, Gorham is well-known for playing an LDS Church missionary in Mitch Davis’ “The Other Side of Heaven,” based on novel by Elder John H. Groberg, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

Gorham plays Dennis Sullivan, a mild-mannered New York City accountant who tries on a Man America outfit in a costume shop and, while disguised, thwarts a knife-wielding robber at the store. The heroic deed makes tabloid headlines, and a beautiful, grieving widow, Katie Wells (Susan Misner, “Person of Interest”), and her withdrawn son, Jake (Ben Hyland, “Marley & Me"), wonder who the goggle-masked crime-fighter could be. But there’s friction between the two: Ben’s favorite action figure is Man America, but his mother isn’t sure Ben should find comfort in a fictional being.

Without recognizing the man within the Man America suit, the fractured family has met Sullivan before. His dragon-lady boss, Miss Malechek (Pamela Shaw), had assigned him to review the Wells' family’s tax situation. Before viewing scenes at a baseball game and of a stroll though the local park with ice cream cones in hand, if you’re already guessing the ending of “Somebody’s Hero,” dollars to doughnuts you’re not far off.

“We can all be heroic. I mean, not necessarily by literally fighting crime, but just by doing the right thing,” Sullivan comes to believe.

“Somebody’s Hero” aims for tongue-in-cheek humor but has a straightforward approach to the material. There are easy targets to criticize: single-dimensional characters and the bland script. However, considering the small budget, the film is a success on an After-School Special level.

The noble intent of “Somebody’s Hero” is to reinforce the concept that everyday individuals can mentor a child’s life, even without performing able-to-leap-tall-buildings-in-a-single-bound heroics in caped-crusader costumes.

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