Tuesday, June 02, 2015

DWF ’15: SuperBob

He is sort of like a British Ralph Hinkley (The Greatest American Hero), except Robert Kenner has a much better handle on his powers and much less of a life. Maybe, just maybe, he can have a reasonably grown-up date with a bombshell fan on his day off, if politics and international crises do not preempt him in Jon Drever’s SuperBob (trailer here), which screens during the eighteenth Dances With Films, in Hollywood, California.

Kenner (a.k.a. SuperBob) is not really a superhero. He is a civil servant, supervised by a new division of the British defense ministry. Sure, he does superhero stuff, but he has to have everyone he saves fill out annoying paperwork afterward. His handler Theresa Ford keeps poor Kenner on a short leash, but it is not like the Peckham resident has much going on in his life. Just ask Dorris, his dismissive part-time Colombian housekeeper.

The documentary film crew following Kenner will give her plenty of opportunities to dish on her socially awkward boss (but wisely, Drever is not slavishly faithful to the mockumentary format). However, as she helps Kenner prepare for his date with a librarian hottie who would be way out of his league if it were not for his flying and invulnerability, sparks will start to fly between them. Unfortunately, both potential romances will have to be put on hold when Kenner is summoned for a high powered summit with an American senator concerned about unregulated super-heroism.

SuperBob is endearingly amusing when it focuses on Bob’s romantic ineptitude and the things that plague him which we all can relate to, such as reams of government paperwork. However, it falls flat when it tries to score wider satirical points. Everyone knows Americans love superheroes, so the notion of a senator (who oh so coincidentally bears a strong resemblance to Pres. George W. Bush) trying to demonize SuperBob never rings remotely true. At its best, satire takes readily identifiable aspects of reality and twists them for comedic purposes. Arguably, the depiction of Sen. Jackson only really expresses the preconceptions and biases Drever and co-screenwriters William Bridges and Brett Goldstein have tried to project on their straw man.

The clunky political score settling is unfortunate, because it interrupts some rather endearing rom-com chemistry developed between Goldstein and Natlia Tena. After years of Marvel’s more everyman approach to super-heroics and William Katt’s comedic caped-crusading, viewers are well attuned to the private side of superheroes. Nevertheless, there is something decidedly charming about Kenner’s frustrated devotion to his mother, his shyness around girls, and his pride in his Peckham neighborhood. Frankly, it is a shame they didn’t have him around during the 2011 riots.

Featuring Doctor Who’s Catherine Tate as Ford and Laura Haddock from Da Vinci’s Demons as June the librarian, SuperBob should be able to count on heavy geek interest. In fact, it is quite enjoyable when it is not trying to make statements. Recommended for fans of slightly rough-around-the-edges superhero comedies, SuperBob screens tomorrow (6/3) as part DWF18.