Collectively, we here at Film Threat have been a fan of James Duval for quite some time. So, it’s no small thing to claim that Duval’s performance in I, Challenger might just be the best of his entire career. But, I mean it. He turns what could have been an obnoxious role, for as good as the writing is, Sid’s guilelessness could come across as stupid naivete in other hands. If that were to happen, audiences would question how this adult man made it this far in life. Thankfully, Duval goes all in, and when the darker elements hit, there’s no tonal whiplash because he sells them so authentically as well.
Of course, Duval has tremendous help from the rest of the players. Stewart is tons of fun as Logan, and the two share excellent chemistry, so it’s easy to buy them as friends. Majorino brings a real warmth to her role, instantly selling the romantic angle from her first moment. MC Lyte is only in two or three scenes as Logan’s mom Diane, but she makes quite the impression. Then, of course, there’s the hilarious cameo from Margaret Cho fairly early on.
“…Duval’s performance in I, Challenger might just be the best of his entire career.”
All of this excellence abounds in I, Challenger, and Boyd’s excellent direction and the exquisite score by Misha Segal haven’t even been brought up. Boyd is wise enough to let his actors do their thing and focus on tone. As such, every joke lands, as do the more intense moments, without throwing all that came before off balance. Helping maintain the atmosphere is Segal’s music, which is absolutely spot-on and never finds a false note.
I, Challenger is a real surprise in the best possible way. The comedy and drama mix well, with none of those awkward tone problems that plague so many other titles. Duval has never been better and is aided by a great supporting cast. The characters are all richly detailed and alive. All in all, there’s no reason not to check it out as soon as possible.
"…none of those awkward tone problems that plague so many other titles."