Thursday, August 16, 2012

#731. Superdad (1973)

Directed By: Vincent McEveety

Starring: Bob Crane, Kurt Russell, Barbara Rush

Tag line: "Young love is making waves...and Dad's about to get beached!"

Trivia:  This movie sat on the shelf for a year before Disney decided to release it

I was amazed at how well I remembered Disney’s Superdad, a movie I caught in the theater back in 1975 (which is when the studio finally got around to releasing this 1973 picture). I couldn’t have been more than 5 years old at the time, but it obviously made a lasting impression. I was sure it starred the guy from Hogan’s Heroes (Bob Crane), and also featured the guy from McHale’s Navy (Joe Flynn, in a small role, playing his usual bad-tempered character). I vividly recalled the water-skiing scene, knew Bob Crane was gonna fall down the stairs at one point, and even remembered the showdown between the dad and the beatnik, which took place on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.

In fact, there was only one thing that slipped my mind, and that's how badly Superdad sucks.

 And it does…it really, really does!

Charlie McCready (Crane) loves his daughter, Wendy (Kathleen Cody), a recent high-school graduate, and wants to see her go far in life. But Charlie believes the lazy, unambitious group of kids she hangs around with are holding her back, and the worst among them is Wendy’s boyfriend, Bart (Kurt Russell). So, he arranges for Wendy to receive a scholarship from his old Alma Mater, which takes her a long away from home. But his plan backfires when Wendy falls in with an even worse crowd in college, landing her in more trouble than she’s ever known before.

Let’s set aside for a moment the problems that lie on the surface of Superdad, like the fact it’s a sloppy film, with scenes thrown in that simply don’t fit (there’s an absolutely painful sequence where Charlie, after watching a family therapist on TV, decides he needs to spend more time with Wendy. So he tags along with her and her friends to the beach, setting up some of the most pathetic slapstick I’ve ever seen). The main issue I had with Superdad has to do with its basic premise, namely that we never once understand why Charlie is so against Wendy’s high-school chums. Populated by such future stars as Kurt Russell, Bruno Kirby and Ed Begley Jr, they’re a polite, fun-loving group of teens, a far cry from the negative influence Charlie believes them to be. His reservations make no sense whatsoever, and as a result, there’s not a moment we’re on Charlie’s side, which is problematic when you consider he’s the focal point of this movie. Forget about contrived scenes; this entire film is contrived!

Disney put out some impressive live-action family fare in the ‘60s and ‘70s, a few of which are still considered classics (Swiss Family Robinson, Mary Poppins), while others remain at least passable entertainment for kids and parents alike (The World's Greatest Athlete, The North Avenue Irregulars). Why they bothered with Superdad is beyond me. This movie’s damn near unwatchable.

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