Released to theaters in 1973, Superdad was the Disney movie made to address the “generation gap”: the differences in outlooks and lifestyles between the adults and college-aged kids during the Vietnam War Era. Was the film a success? Nope, no it wasn’t. Many people consider this to be the worst (or at least one of the worst) live-action Disney films ever made! Just to show how little faith Disney had in this film: they kept the film sitting on the Disney shelves for a whole year before they decided to release it in theaters!
So, I figured it’s best that I hurry up and check this one off the list as quickly as I can! Here is my review of Superdad!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The movie begins with a song playing in the background as the opening credits are displayed against montage of people at the beach.
When that ends, we discover that it was all just a dream sequence that our main character, Mr. McCready, seems to be having. Mr. McCready, played by Bob Crane, is a middle-aged lawyer and father to a girl named Wendy. Wendy, played by Kathleen Cody, is getting ready to attend college soon, but Mr. Mcready has some complaints about her life.
She seems to spend her time with a bunch of friends who has no ambition in their life; they just desire to have fun and be together while doing it. She has a boyfriend named Bart, played by Kurt Russell, who isn’t too beloved by Mr. McCready either. Mr. McCready just wishes that Wendy and her friends would have more ambition in their lives.
One day, while watching TV, he comes across a “pundit” who advises parents to be a part of their children’s lives rather than criticize them. Mr. McCready ponders on this for a bit and decides to give it a shot; maybe it’ll change his mind regarding Wendy and her friends. So, he joins them the next day at the beach and tries to participate in their volleyball games, football games, waterskiing, etc. None of these end well.
The injuries he sustained during those incidents cause him to miss work for three days. He realizes that he was right all along: that Wendy and her friends have little to no ambition and that the TV “pundit” was just talking nonsense!
Mr. McCready is further upset when he learns that Wendy will be going to the local City College with her friends rather than the prestigious Huntington College a few hours away because she didn’t hear back regarding receiving a scholarship to attend there. Fortunately, his business partner, Ira, played by Dick Van Patten, knows someone at the scholarship department of Huntington College named Claude Archer and hatches a plan. They’d get Claude to send a fake letter to Wendy informing her of winning the scholarship so that she could go there instead of City College and get the education that Mr. McCready wants her to get. This just means Mr. McCready will have to pay the fees out of his own pocket, but he doesn’t mind as long as Wendy gets separated from her “bum” friends.
When Wendy receives the letter, she’s quite excited, although sad that she has to break the news to Bart. Now, they won’t be attending the same college anymore. Bart seems sad and confused, but as classes are soon to start, he drives Wendy up to the college to get her settled and whatnot.
Mr. McCready is of course, frightened, when he hears this because he feels Wendy might meet someone else besides Claude Archer regarding signing up for classes and the secret will be out! So, he quickly flies to the college and heads to the boarding house that Wendy’s staying at. It happens to be the same boarding house that her mother stayed at when she was studying there. But, things have changed: it’s now a co-ed dorm, much to Mr. McCready’s fear! Not to mention that he arrived after visiting hours, so the matron won’t let him see his daughter! After persisting to get his way, he’s thrown out of the boarding house!
He still tries to get Wendy’s attention from outside by calling her name and climbing up a ladder into what he thinks is Wendy’s window. Unfortunately, it happens to be the window of another female boarder and Mr. McCready is arrested as a peeping tom.
He finally gets to see Wendy, however, when she comes to bail him out. He explains to her that he just wanted to see how she was adjusting with the move and everything and he makes sure to tell her to see Claude Archer regarding her courses and nobody else. Wendy doesn’t really understand why, but agrees.
As time goes by, Wendy seems to be doing good at school. Although, Mr. McCready is disappointed in her for deciding to study art rather than something like math or science. One day she visits home being driven down by a classmate of hers, a guy named Roger, played by Nicholas Hammond. He’s much more intellectual and sophisticated compared to her old friends, so of course, Mr. McCready likes him!
But, Bart (whom Mr. McCready didn’t tell that Wendy was coming to visit) finds out that Wendy’s back and discovers something else: that her scholarship was faked! He approaches Mr. McCready about this matter (which he doesn’t explain how he found out) and Wendy finds out the secret. She feels so hurt about it that she leaves and goes back to the college, but instead of attending classes, she gets involved with the counterculture crowd. She ends up joining an anti-ship league protesting ships being in the San Francisco Harbor.
When her parents find out about this from the television news, they head up there right away to straighten things out with Wendy. (Oh yeah, Wendy’s mother, Mrs. McCready, is played by Barbara Rush. She honestly doesn’t do that much, so I don’t really feel the need to discuss her much.)
Wendy ends up regretting what’s happened and apologizes to her parents; I guess she did it all to get back at her father for his “rotten trick”. But, she still has one problem. The leader of the anti-ship league, Klutch, played by Joby Baker, is forcibly declaring himself “engaged” to Wendy and tells her that he’ll kill himself if she breaks it. This, of course, angers Mr. McCready and he goes to Klutch’s art studio to tell him that the engagement is off. Not satisfied with the answer, Klutch and Mr. McCready, end up having a fight in his art studio with paints and other pieces of art that are around there. It’s both kinda funny and kinda weird at the same time. Bart also has driven up there and comes in time for this final fight as well.
In the end, Mr. McCready and Bart win the fight and Bart tells Mr. McCready how he knew that the scholarship was fake. You see, Bart had also applied for the scholarship and had gotten a response that he was accepted two weeks before the semester began! (He didn’t wanna tell Wendy or the others because he preferred going to City College so that he could be with them.) So, he knew Wendy’s was fake since it came only two days before the semester began rather than two weeks before!
In the end, everyone heads back home and sometime later is the wedding of Bart and Wendy. Despite running ten minutes late for the wedding (only 10 minutes late and they’re panicking? For we West Indians, if the bride is 10 minutes late to her wedding, that’s like a praiseworthy miracle!), Wendy and Mr. McCready make it to the church (albeit with some delays/upsets) so that the wedding can proceed as planned. Wendy is happy that all her loved ones are there and Mr. McCready is happy because Wendy is.
And that was Superdad! More like Super Bad! What can I say about the film? The story is all over the place! First, it seemed to be about the dad trying to understand his daughter and her generation, but that goes nowhere. Then, it’s a comedy about keeping a collegiate secret from his daughter, but that ends not too long after. Finally, there’s counterculture people, forced engagements, and art studio fights that just seem to have popped up out of nowhere! To top it all off, none of the story (or stories) is even particularly interesting!
The only good thing to mention about the film is probably in the acting and even that is limited. Bob Crane is the best actor overall and showcases his comedic side often. But, Kurt Russell gives us the same Disney performance of his that we’ve seen in other Disney movies before. Kathleen Cody and Barbara Rush were okay, even though the latter was barely important to the film. And many actors like Dick Van Patten, Nicholas Hammond, and Joe Flynn (whom I didn’t even mention) were horribly underused and I wished to see more of them rather than Wendy’s friends!
All in all, the story and lack of focus is where this film suffers mostly! While it didn’t get the coveted “worst live-action Disney movie that I’ve ever seen” award (and that may be only because of Bob Crane’s comedic talent), it’s definitely not super!
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
The next review will be posted on February 20, 2017.