Sunday, 15 November 2015

Superbob

I started my recent review of the brilliant Convenience by saying that, every so often, a little British comedy comes along seemingly out of nowhere and is a great success with audiences. I mentioned films like Shaun of the Dead, Four Lions and Sightseers – and now Convenience joins the list – as being perfect examples of this. Here comes another…but unfortunately it doesn’t quite reach the same heights as the others.


Out now on DVD comes Superbob, directed by Jon Drever. The low-budget comedy tells the story of Robert Kenner (Brett Goldstein), a lonely civil servant looking for love. On his day off, he arranges his first date in 6 years with a local librarian (Laura Haddock). But unfortunately his boss Theresa (Catherine Tate) has other ideas…It is hard being a superhero. Yes, Robert is Superbob, the world’s only super-powered civil servant. After he was struck by a meteor, he developed all the usual superhero powers – flight, super strength, shooting lasers from his eyes, etc. – but still hasn’t mastered the ability to talk to women. 


Brett Goldstein, who also co-wrote the script with William Bridges, is delightfully endearing as the eponymous hero. Nailing the social awkwardness and introverted lifestyle to what I’m sure is humorously relatable for a lot of people, Superbob is an endlessly likeable character, hilariously bemused as he deals with constant life-saving situations and resentful locals (“enjoying your day off, you lazy SHIT?!”). Goldstein, recently seen in Hoff the Record and Derek, is a talented comedy actor. There’s no denying that. And the supporting cast are decent – Game of Thrones’ Natalia Tena is great as Bob’s cleaner and confidante Doris, while Ruth Sheen shines as his mum. But without Goldstein, this film probably would’ve been a lot worse – mainly thanks to Catherine Tate being as cringey as ever, continuing to display her lack of versatility by basically playing Catherine Tate again.

Superbob’s low-key delivery is brilliant – the awkwardness and Britishness of the humour is a delight throughout. Despite the cover of the DVD, don’t be expecting any action. If you want that from your superhero films, go back to Marvel. Superbob is shot like a fly-on-the-wall documentary, in the style of The Office or Modern Family. Like with those shows, this allows for natural improvisation and a strong feeling of realism, despite the superhero themes. Even the superhero themes are handled with relatable British mundanity and satire, as Superbob complains that most of his job is paperwork – whenever he saves someone, they must fill out forms so the British government can keep records. 

Superbob is a quiet and understated comedy with a surprising amount of heart – it’s just a shame it’s hidden amongst so much filler. Yes, Superbob feels like one joke stretched very tightly over 80 minutes. Adapted from a short film of the same name, Superbob feels far too long at even such a short length. Whilst I did have a good time and some good laughs with the film, I found myself checking my watch frequently – Superbob, although entertaining, is aimless.


Some elements of the story are all over the place making a somewhat tedious and uncomfortable watch at times – all of the stuff to do with Superbob having to shake the hand of an American politician felt unnecessary and forced, particularly at the board meeting discussing which handshake to go for. Some of this humour felt juvenile and out-of-place. The humour, like the pacing and narrative, is inconsistent. In conclusion, Superbob’s strong premise, great lead performance and subtle satire make for an entertaining enough watch. That said, opportunities are missed and narrative missteps stop Superbob from soaring.

Superbob isn’t the film we deserve, nor is it the one we need right now. It’s not perfect but is isn’t awful. It’s just…meh. 3/5.

★★★☆☆

Sam Love


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