no ordinary hero


To Believe in Oneself

Amos Lassen

In Troy Kotsur’s “No Ordinary Hero”, we meet Tony Kane (John Maucere) , a deaf actor who plays a superhero on a TV show. In real life he is no superhero but just another guy who happens to be deaf, with hopes and dreams that always seem to elude him. Eight-year-old Jacob Lang (Zane Hencker) is also deaf and has a hard time in school, where he is torn between what his father thinks is “normal” and an education using sign language promoted by his mother. When Tony and Jacob’s paths cross, they inspire belief in each other and in themselves. And when Tony meets Jacob’s teacher, Jenny, a romance blossoms that suddenly makes Tony feel like he can do anything… even things he never dreamed was possible.


Here is a film that celebrates diversity and seeks to inspire, but it does so in a realistic way as many of the laughs involving Kane do center around the many challenges he faces living his daily life in a world that doesn’t always understand those who appear to be “different.”


At the same time that Kane struggles, the film gives us, Jacob, a young boy who is deaf and struggling to keep up at school – at least partially because his father (James Leo Ryan) insists he learn lip reading rather than American Sign Language. While dad means well, his insistence that his son not be seen as “different” leads to Jacob’s increasing struggles at schools academically and socially.


The film reflects the real world and portrays disability through a largely healthy lens that should open the doors to honest conversations for parents and children. While the filmmaking here isn’t particularly innovative, it effectively creates entertaining and has characters that keep us watching the film from beginning to end. Marlee Matlin has a brief presence but it is important and effective. It’s also a sign that the actress, herself deaf, recognizes the value in the film’s message and believes it to be presented well.


Maucere and Hencker do a nice job here, portraying with honesty and authenticity the challenges of being deaf in a largely hearing culture while never presenting their characters as “disabled’ by their disability. As one might expect, the film does occasionally tug at the heartstrings. This is a family friendly film that celebrates. the differences that exist between us.

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