review for Powder on AllMovie

Powder (1995)
by Karl Williams review

A seriously creepy film from notoriously controversial director Victor Salva, this bizarre fantasy drama follows the basic spine of E.T. (1982) but lacks much of that classic's charm and excitement, instead providing skin-crawling moments of symbolic juvenile homoeroticism, hilariously bad dialogue, and absurd situations that provoke unintended guffaws. There are a few cool, genuinely awe-inspiring moments here. Salva particularly handles big plot point moments well, such as the death of a sheriff's wife and a well-staged scene in which a science teacher (Jeff Goldblum, woefully underutilized in what amounts to a cameo role) realizes the true nature of Powder (Sean Patrick Flanery) during a class lecture. For every beat that works, however, the audience is thrown a curveball of over-the-top camp. There's Powder ogling some showering school bullies (what in the world it means is never really explained) or punishing a deer hunter to emphasize his Christ-like "specialness," a howler of goofball, knee-jerk liberalism run amok that, like many other scenes, hits the viewer with the subtlety of a wooden mallet. Flanery does a fine job of conveying the depth of his character's wounded, soulful pain and intelligence. The actor really manages to infuse Powder with the intelligence that the script indicates, but never illustrates except in the most obvious and on-the-nose manner. Powder (1995) is morally simplistic and shallow, predictable and contains some disturbing material allusive to the director's personal and legal problems that all add up to a cinematic experience most will prefer to skip.