From a young age, Charlie wanted to be a superhero. Unfortunately, life didn’t work out quite that way and, after years of being the victim rather than the hero, the now older Charlie (Kenny Pitts) is employed as a janitor at a high school. After seeing the same patterns of abuse he endured as a student play out with a younger generation, Charlie snaps and decides to cross the line to protect the weak, instead of just commiserate with them.
Counseled by Jesus Christ, Charlie begins to train to become the hero he’s always wanted to be. And eventually, his identity protected by hockey goalie mask and his soul protected by a crucifix, Charlie heads out to clean up the streets of his small Oklahoma town to great, yet increasingly controversial, vigilante success. At the same time, Charlie’s crush on local school teacher Gracie (Julia Curry) grows, and he finds himself becoming more engaged with the drama surrounding her life, particularly the abusive relationship she’s in.
The Unusual (Calling of) Charlie Christmas is a superhero movie for the working class, or rather, an example of one man, somewhat misguided, standing up for what he thinks is right, even if it means getting a bit too violent from time to time. Sure, Charlie looks like Gibby Haynes crossed with TMNT‘s Casey Jones, and he has regular conversations with Jesus, but he’s really not that odd a hero. Okay, yeah, he is.
Coupled with the strange choice of vigilante hero is the film’s usage of a very dry wit. Most situations, when they’re leaning comedic, are delivered in a deadpan style that gives the film a unique vibe to it. It’s not out-and-out parody or joke-fest, for example, but it’s also not an overwhelmingly emotional, brooding melodrama. It’s more a deliberated paced drama with not quite dark so much as awkwardly dry comedic elements involved. It works within its world, especially considering Charlie’s social failings, but it is a tonal taste that one must get used to, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some find it more off-putting than others.
Overall, I found The Unusual (Calling of) Charlie Christmas to be a fine, lo-fi addition to the superhero genre, with a leaning more towards reality than, say, even a similar idea like Kick A*s. Charlie as a hero was never going to suddenly figure out how to craft a perfect costume, build an expensive weapon arsenal or become untouchable in a fight; he makes the best of what he can find around him, for better or worse. Eventually his shortcomings, and naiveté, will catch up to him, but in the meantime he tries to make a difference. His heart is in the right place, even if his brain isn’t always.
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