Comedy Oddities: SuperBob

superbob imdbThe concept for Superbob (Brett Goldstein) is that he’s a very English superhero, one who is quite geeky and nerdy, and also laid down by bureaucracy, while the American government are jealous that Britain have a superhero working for them and so do their best to discredit him. Throw in a dash of romance and you should have a film that’s both funny and endearing, but it’s an odd mix that doesn’t quite work.

It starts off impressively at least, as the opening four minutes of the film throw a sod load of exposition at us as we learn a man was struck by a meteor and shortly afterwards he develops super powers. Rather than being allowed to roam free the government train him, and he’s soon working for the Ministry of Defence with Theresa Ford (an acerbic and unlikeable Catherine Tate) as his boss. Within this time there’s also a fun cameo from Joe Wilkinson as an unimpressed post man who mocks the idea of a British superhero, but once everything’s set up we skip forward six years where a film is going to be made about SuperBob to show that he’s normal, so we’re in mockumentary territory essentially, and it’s banal and insipid material.

The first thirty minutes is largely Bob wandering around the town where he lives (Peckham) and rambling away about how he identifies as a civil servant rather than a superhero, and talking about his average day, while those around him seem to think he’s a bit of a dick. There’s also a misjudged subplot with his Alzheimer’s suffering mother Pat (Ruth Sheen) with Bob getting annoyed at her melodramatic ways in a seemingly cruel manner, and a romantic element as he’s fallen for June (Laura Haddock), the local librarian.

Goldstein’s Superbob is an odd creation, sometimes endearingly meek, sometimes infuriating Gervaisian as he embarrasses himself with the idiocy that he sprouts, saying things like “I don’t think all women are whores, just you” to his cleaner Doris (Natalia Tena) even though he supposedly likes her. He’s not quite David Brent in spandex as he lacks Brent’s bravado and is a far nicer character, but his delivery of dialogue isn’t a million miles off at times and this is definitely not a good thing.

The film is oddly paced too, given that it’s a low budget British air there were never going to be a great deal of Bob doing amazing things (though the ones we get are largely fun) but the mixture of the American Senator Jackson whining about Bob, him being told off by Theresa, and then his either romancing Anna or hanging out with Doris seem at odds, and some scenes, like the one at his mother’s retirement home where he offends pretty much everyone present, go on for a bizarrely long time. There’s far too much lazy cringe comedy as well, the film has some amusing enough characters and ideas but all too often relies on Bob saying something stupid and then regretting it for laughs.

There are some funny moments, the many members of the public who mock Bob come out with some great lines, Bob has a couple of cute moments while he’s on his date with June, the satire of English bureaucracy is mildly amusing, at least in the scene he tries to get a baby he saved to fill out a form, and the ending while predictable is carried out well, but these moments only serve to frustrate as there’s a hint of a good film which is never delivered upon.

The central couple lack chemistry and it’s hard to work out why Bob suddenly feels he’d be better off with Doris than June (until she’s clumsily revealed as helping out the MOD so that Bob is more popular with America), and the scenes concerning the American Senator just drag, they’re never funny and the outcome’s painfully obvious given that Bob’s an invincible superhero who can’t be hurt and this is a light, flimsy affair. The way the film fails to ever be innovative or original is a real problem here, along with the amount of dialogue which irritates, and so anyone looking for an unusual or offbeat superhero comedy will come away sorely disappointed.

★★1/2

Alex Finch.
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