Kick off your weekend with Gabriele Salvatores’s adorable superhero movie, The Invisible Boy (Il Ragazzo Invisibile). Telling the story of horribly bullied ninth grader Miki who suddenly discovers that he has the ability to make himself invisible! When local kids start to go missing from the town, Miki must use his newfound abilities and join forces with unlikely friends in order to rescue the kids and stop the bad guys.
I’ll be honest: I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this movie at all and instead I ended up loving it. In a time of superhero sequels galore, The Invisible Boy (Il Ragazzo Invisibile) is a much needed breath of fresh air. Even though it follows many of the same old superhero-origin-story tropes, there is remarkable creativity in the details. Miki is raised by a single mother who is a cop at the local precinct and eventually discovers that he’s adopted. The parent-less child turning into a superhero is no surprise, but a there’s a twist when we find out what actually happened to Miki’s parents.
The film also is brutally honest. The scenes of Miki being bullied are awful to watch, but frighteningly accurate. Bullying isn’t just an innocent game that children grow out of; as we learn in the movie, bullying is deeply rooted and is taught. That’s not to say that the movie calls for sympathy for bullies, but it does reveal that there may be more to it than just bad brain wiring.
Stella is the new girl in town with whom Miki has a boyhood infatuation. Having moved around a lot in her youth, Stella is weary of making too close a connection to her classmates, but at the same time craves the intimacy of true friendship. When she becomes one of the kids kidnapped, she plots with the others for a way to get help and she is the one who does all the brunt work, an interesting change for what is traditionally would just be a damsel in distress.
Similarly, Miki’s mother is a beautifully complex mix of humanity. Unable to have children of her own but desperate to be a mother, she adopts Miki and raises him and loves him as her very own. At the same time, she doesn’t give up her career as a police officer and actually hires a nanny for when she’s unable to be home with Miki. Nevertheless, she is bonded with Miki and does her absolute best to be close to him, but still give him the room he needs as a growing teenage boy. We see glimpses into the mother’s life and find out that she is constantly criticized by her own mother for being single and working full-time instead of being a married mother. We also see her emotional agony in relation to Miki, but she impressively keeps that and her duty as an officer of the law totally separate. She’s really a shining example of all those female stereotypes broken, or at least updated to show that you can be modern and creative at the same time.
That isn’t where the creativity and imagination ends, though. Aside from the creative storyline (and back stories), one of the most interesting things to note was Miki’s actions when he first learns he can become invisible. He seeks revenge on his bullies, finds out the answers to a test he otherwise would’ve failed and sneaks into the girls’ locker room to sit and watch girlhood up close. This is likely what any other oppressed, rebellious young kid would have done, but we seldom see it in most superhero movies. Most of those movies want the protagonist to be as near to saintliness as possible and any unethical acts they commit tend to haunt them. But Miki is just a thirteen-year-old kid and he acts as we would expect a thirteen-year-old kid to act. He is reprimanded for his actions when they come to the light and he does learn from them, so it was actually a very interesting way to showing Miki’s transformation from desperate to confident.
The Invisible Boy (Il Ragazzo Invisibile) will have you hooked. It’s adorable, funny and creative, and sets up for sequels (as any good superhero movie would) which are likely to be as fun as the first. There’s even a massive twist at the end that’ll have your mouth hanging open and leave you eager for the next instalment of this gem.
The Invisible Boy (Il Ragazzo Invisibile) screens at TIFF Bell Lightbox on June 13 @ 5:00pm.