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Boy Wonder (DVD Review)

30 Nov, 2011 By: John Latchem

$26.98 DVD
Rated ‘R’ for some brutal violence and pervasive language.
Stars Caleb Steinmeyer, Zulay Henao, Bill Sage, James Russo, Chuck Cooper, Tracy Middendorf.

While the recent trend in superhero movies has been to explore a depiction of masked vigilantes more grounded in reality, many of the efforts have been unwilling to completely abandon the spirit of their comic book roots. Films such as Kick-Ass and Super used a dark comedic edge to spoof the underlying subject matter while remaining grounded in their own respective realities.

Boy Wonder takes the opposite approach, presenting a psychological examination of a masked crimefighter within the context of a gritty crime drama.

The subject is Sean Donovan (Caleb Steinmeyer), who as a boy witnessed the murder of his mother in a carjacking. Now in high school, Sean is withdrawn and wrought with emotional issues. He spends his free time studying mug shots at the police station with the idea of one day finding his mother’s killer, but he’s actually taking notes on which bad guys the courts can’t touch.

His background of parental death is intentionally similar to those of both Batman and Robin, and the film’s title is a reference to the junior member of the Caped Crusaders. One of the filmmakers in the DVD’s making-of featurette even describes Sean as Robin without the calming influence of Batman (which, interestingly, was kind of a subplot of Batman Forever).

A key difference here is that Sean’s father is still alive. The elder Donovan (Bill Sage) was once an abusive drunk with a shady past who used to beat his wife and son and is trying to make amends.

Also thrown into the mix is ambitious young homicide detective Teresa Ames (Zulay Henao), who suspects Sean may be involved in the deaths of street scum who have thus far evaded justice. In the key scene outlining the film’s thesis, Sean and Ames debate the merits of due process, which Sean bitterly rejects. But Sean’s mind may be playing tricks on him, and the film is ambiguous about just how much of his actions are motivated by what is actually true.

The end result is an ambitious indie that, while a little too on the nose in parts, manages to deliver a satisfying character study and a fresh take on the superhero genre.

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