'No Ordinary Family' Review: A Different Family Happiness
'No Ordinary Family' Review: A Different Family Happiness
Laurel Brown
Laurel Brown
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Over a century ago, Leo Tolstoy wrote: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Words of wisdom, to be sure, but No Ordinary Family flies directly in the face of Tolstoy's truism.

When we first meet the Powell family, they're very normal and fairly unhappy. Dad Jim (Michael Chiklis) sees himself as a failure. Mom Stephanie (Julie Benz) spends all of her time working. The two teens (Kay Panabaker and Jimmy Bennett) are about as surly and disinterested as the average teen. None of them are happy, but all of them are painfully familiar.

Then their plane crashes in a mysterious Amazonian lake. Everyone (except for the pilot, who doesn't count) survives, and they return to their normal, slightly depressing lives.

That's when the fun begins. Jim finds out that he's incredibly strong and nearly invincible. Stephanie can run fast enough to create a sonic boom (no boom, unfortunately). Daughter Daphne can read the minds of the crazed teens that surround her (poor thing!). And son JJ, formerly an underachieving slacker, suddenly becomes a super-genius. Let the wacky hijinks ensue!

Well, only kind of wacky, since this is a relatively serious show. Jim immediately goes the Superman route, using his new powers in an attempt to foil crime. Stephanie gets really excited about all the extra time she's going to save by moving quickly (although not as excited as she should be about the heightened metabolism that allows for constant eating and no weight gain). Daphne stays pretty miserable, since her power involves hanging out in the minds of adolescents. And JJ can suddenly do math. Which is a useful skill but not nearly as spectacular as stopping bullets.

The show is definitely -- and with good reason, as we find out -- going the "keep it a secret" route, but the Powells waste no time in sharing their newfound powers with a select few. Jim's accomplice is his buddy George (Romany Malco), easily the best sidekick a new superhero could want. Stephanie lets her lab tech, Katie (Autumn Reeser), hold a stopwatch. I hope Katie has more point than this, but so far, that's it.

Nobody tells Stephanie's boss or Jim's police station co-workers. This is probably a good thing.

The premiere of No Ordinary Family is primarily an origin story, so don't expect a lot of crazy action and long-term plot development. Instead, we get hints (some quite tantalizing) about how the powers occurred and what they might mean throughout the series. If you are among those looking for another Heroes, No Ordinary Family may be the closest thing you're going to get. There is definitely more to the story than just a slightly-bizarre family drama.

This lack of action is, however, more than offset by the excellent acting. Seeing Michael Chiklis as a nice guy who doesn't want to bash in heads (but totally could) is pleasant change. Fans of Julie Benz will be very happy to see her play a character that is not evil and/or dead. Of the supporting actors, Stephen Collins (that nice minister from 7th Heaven) provides a combination of jovial and sinister, while Romany Malco is just plain fun.

In the end, it looks like the Powells' new superpowers will give them a shot at a rather unusual form of happiness. This goes against Tolstoy, of course, but the Powells are not an ordinary family.

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