Superpowered with silliness, “Alter Egos” is a comedy about second-string heroes, but has a first-rate sense of humor thanks to a wry script by helmer Jordan Galland, making up for what he lacks in visual style with frequently sharp comedic dialogue. The very idea of a low-budget superhero movie is a pretty good gag, but the film is best when it forgets the comicbook stuff and concentrates on its screwy characters, who don’t necessarily need capes and tights to whip up a laugh. Possibilities seem limited, but this is a solid showcase for the talents involved.
Taking a page from “The Incredibles” and “Mystery Men,” this sophomore feature by Galland (2009’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead”) places its beleaguered superheroes in a world where public opinion has turned against them. Their standards have definitely dropped: Unlike Superman, who had multiple Metropolis-sized powers, C-Thru (Joey Kern) has only X-ray vision. His pal, Fridge (Kris Lemche), shoots ice out of his hands, which is of limited use unless you’re a bartender. But at least they’ve met the qualifications of Superhero Corps, a kind of trade-union-in-tights led by the unseen Captain Amazingness.
And in a world where everyone seems to have some kind of unearthly gift, they’re luckier than most. When Fridge arrives in the Hamptons to rendezvous with C-Thru and execute a top-secret Corps assignment, one of the first people he meets is Jimmy the Cop (Danny Masterson) who doesn’t take kindly to superheroes: Jimmy’s gift is being able to turn invisible — but only for 2.3 seconds at a time. His comings and goings are exploited for maximum laughs, but the whole situation has him in a bad mood. It doesn’t help matters when Fridge starts clicking with hotel manager Claudel (Brooke Nevin), with whom the married Jimmy is having an affair.
Fridge, meanwhile, has his own romantic complications: When he isn’t being Fridge, he’s being Brendan, whose girlfriend, Emily (Christine Evangelista), is having her own illicit affair — with Fridge. There’s nothing Brendan/Fridge can do but break up with Emily. She doesn’t quite see it that way.
The combination of superheroes and sitcom is consistently funny. Where “Alter Egos” goes off the rails, ironically, is when it tries to be a comicbook movie: Shrink (John Ventimiglia), the arch-evildoer who killed Fridge’s parents, is locked up in one of Claudel’s hotel rooms, inspiring an extended sequence that lifts a bit from every superhero origin story ever written. It feels as though Galland is killing time, or just giving Ventimiglia something to do.
Tech credits are good, if deliberately low-rent. The Hamptons (apparently used off-season) are underpopulated, the shooting style is anti-blockbuster, and Carisa Kelly’s costumes are inherently cheesy/hilarious. Sean Lennon, who composed the score, does a nice job of infusing a pop sensibility with just a lilt of John Williams, fitting the mixed sensibility of “Alter Egos” to a T.