‘Griff the Invisible’ – Review

True Blood's Ryan Kwanten stars in a superhero story that's "a smart movie, a very funny movie, and sincerely touching."

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

The superhero comedy tends to be based on one fundamental principle: that dressing up in a fancy costume and trying to fight crime is nuts, at least for the average audience member. From the middle-class powers of The Mystery Men to the deep-seated tragedy of The Crimson Bolt in Super, superhero satires are filled with poor introverted bastards (and I mean that in a nice way) with an inflated sense of their own significance, and a slight disconnect between fantasy and reality. These heroes will either reach their goals and become honest-to-gosh heroes or learn a harsh lesson about why most people don’t put on costumes and try to beat up muggers. Griff the Invisible, a wonderful new comedy starring True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten, pretty much manages to do both. It’s a quirky film in the purest sense of the term, and impressively lovable even at its most brooding moments.

Kwanten keeps the dorkiness but loses all the bravado of his True Blood persona playing Griff, a hopelessly awkward individual despite his obvious good looks. He’s spent his life trying to remain invisible, dressing in a bright yellow coat that allows him to blend in with the surroundings at his bus stop, but as his boss reminds him: he’s not invisible, and his attempts to stay out of social situations make him an obvious target for bullies. But Griff’s secret identity – his actual superhero name is a work-in-progress, but he has a large yellow “G” on his chest – seems to convince him that his everyday persona is nothing more than a mask for a more powerful identity. It is not. He’s just a sad and, given the vividness of his fantasy world, perhaps even genuinely psychologically disturbed (if relatively harmless) individual.

While Griff spends his time running around the streets beating up bad guys who may all be in his mind, Melody (Maeve Dermody) spends her time trying to walk through walls. She has a bruised forehead most of the time. Although she’s ostensibly dating Griff’s brother Tim (Patrick Brammall), he’s too normal for Melody, who instantly latches onto Griff’s fantasty world as part of her own. Together they attempt to achieve Griff’s ultimate goal of actual, honest to god invisibility, even though – ironically – only they can see that he vanishes.

With exceptionally empathetic performances from Kwanten and Dermody, it’s easy to get caught up in the world of Griff the Invisible, but over time you begin to question whether these two are actually doing each other any favors by perpetuating these fantasies. It’s entirely possible that Griff actually is a superhero, albeit only in a parallel dimension only perceived by cats (which makes sense in context), but it’s more likely that these two social pariahs are thoroughly immersing themselves in an unhealthy imaginary life from which they will no longer feel the need to emerge, because at least it’s shared. Writer/director Leon Ford evokes elements of The Ruling Class with his apparent argument that innocent madness is preferable to many of the alternatives, but despite a comforting sense of acceptance that accompanies Griff the Invisible’s darling finale it’s a bittersweet conclusion that isn’t afraid to leave legitimate concerns unexamined.

A smart movie, a very funny movie, and sincerely touching, Griff the Invisible is a fine entry in the superhero comedy genre, just thoughtful enough to warrant further examination beyond its well-deserved chuckles. It replaces a traditional story of overcoming the sinister plotting of a supervillain with overcoming the loneliness of the dreamer lifestyle, and in the process feels genuinely special.