Griff the Invisible is yet another entry in a sub-genre that has become so commonplace as to be parody. It’s the story of a regular, if quirky, put-upon guy who decides to don a costume and become a real life superhero. In the future, when someone wants to tell a story set in our current time and place, they’ll have only to reference this trope and the audience will be transported directly back here.
A common thread or undercurrent in these movies (Kick-Ass, Super, Special, etc.) is that the hero is really transforming himself as a means of escaping or avoiding the difficult realities in his own life. This film is no exception. Things are hard for Griff (True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten), mostly because he has no backbone or social skills. Writer/director Leon Ford would have us believe Griff is like this because he’s one of those innocent, fragile weirdoes that populate the kind of movies teenage outcasts naively gravitate toward. But Griff is no teenager and, as such, he probably should’ve figured out by now how to balance his personal responsibilities as a member of society with his individual idiosyncrasies. Being able to take care of yourself and navigate the world at large doesn’t have to be a betrayal of your true self. Of course, I imagine Ford knows that full well, seeing as he was clearly capable enough to get a feature length movie made. This is disingenuousness of the most cynical stripe.
The film would be different, and probably a little more interesting, if Griff were actually mentally ill. Alas, we’re meant to find his delusions and fantasies endearing and not troubling. We know this because it’s these exact flights of sociopathic fancy that catch the eye of the prettiest girl in the movie, Melody (Maeve Dermody). The AV Club’s Nathan Rabin coined the term “manic pixie dream girl” to describe this type of character, the quirky and childish muse who exists only to help the male lead embrace life. In this film, at least, the two deserve each other. There’s another version of this story to be told in which Griff is Melody’s manic pixie dream boy.
Ford couldn’t even be bothered to come up with a plausible way for his two leads to meet. At the beginning, she is dating Griff’s older, more responsible brother, Tim, who is ostensibly meant to represent the boring and repressed regular world but, as played with cheesy bombast by Patrick Brammall, is the most likable character in the film. Melody and Tim are so acutely incompatible that the conceit of them even completing a full conversation with each other, let alone three dates, is a testament to the screenplay’s superciliousness. These brazenly unlikely story contrivances pop up in other places too. For instance, in the real world, Griff’s bullying coworker would have been fired long ago out of a fear of lawsuits.
The film’s biggest sin against creative storytelling comes in the third act. A character’s major turning point hinges on the ghastly old cliché of someone overhearing the first part of a conversation and having their feelings hurt but missing the second part of the conversation where the nice thing is said. This trope groans when used on even the lowest-brow sitcom. Here, its stupidity provokes something near awe. These transgressions, mixed with a score that sounds like flat filler tracks for the real music and shot compositions surely chosen because they worked in other, better films make for a very long 90 minutes
The fact that Griff the Invisible is another entry in the exhausted real life superhero genre is actually only a superficial rip-off. The real hackneyed nature of the movie reveals itself when you realize you’re watching another story in which two outsiders who are too beautiful for this world find each other and use their childish love to escape the shackles of the reasonable, adult realm of civilization and, God forbid, responsibility; another tragic, mutated offspring of Harold and Maude.