Before Ted Lasso and The Nan Movie, Brett Goldstein co-wrote and starred in Jon Drever’s 2015 indie superhero film SuperBob – we’re revisiting a hidden gem.
In the early 2015s Super Bob, postman-turned-superman Bob Kenner walks into the Department of Defense, cape fluttering behind him, and plants his feet with an emphatic “Erm.” It’s a typical moment for a quintessentially British superhero film, and one that punches well above its weight for having been shot in just 19 days entirely in and around Peckham.
Directed by Jon Drever and co-written by Will Bridges and SuperBob himself, Brett Goldstein, the film begins with Bob being hit by an asteroid and emerging from the experience with a Superman-level power set – flight, invulnerability, the ability to open lids of tight jars, the lot. With a relatively low budget for a modern superhero movie, this mockumentary chronicles his weekly UN-mandated day off.
This Tuesday in particular, he hopes to finally get a date with charming librarian June (Laura Haddock), but finds himself at the disposal of his government handler Theresa Ford (Catherine Tate) as she wrestles with the difficult diplomatic side of the world. only superhero being a British asset.
The film is billed as an MOD-commissioned documentary to show that SuperBob is “normal”, a prospect his Colombian cleaner Dorris (Natalia Tena) finds hysterical when suggested. Goldstein is now best known for playing grumpy football legend Roy Kent on the Apple TV sitcom Ted Lasso (and also as one of the show’s writers) but Bob is a much softer alter ego all around. He’s still socially awkward, and of course, he still swears too much.
fans of Lasso will already know and love the sweary but sentimental approach that is also successful here, but Super Bob is a true unsung gem of the superhero genre, if you can call it a genre. It’s just not true that all movies about superpowered characters are the same, but heck, we’ve had two. Batman-linked films that unapologetically paid homage to 1970s American cinema.
Everything else is somewhere along the sci-fi and action axis and while they’re distinct enough, few are as remarkably different as this one. Not since Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 2 has a superhero movie that feels grounded in the daily lives of its characters, and the struggles and heartaches that arise between heroes, but it also has a more ironic tone overall.
Have a day off
the original Super Bob was a three-minute short, which you can find in the extended version DVD extras. Starring Goldstein as Bob and comedian Jen Brister as Dorris, the 2009 short is a two-handed flick billed as our hero’s first interview. The tone is very different from the long version, but it goes to the heart of the continuing character – a shy, nervous man who feels very lonely and overworked.
The feature is funnier and broader overall, with a focus on the administrative side of saving the world, and the convoluted British bureaucracy that’s basically Kryptonite to Bob’s public image. He calls himself a civil servant rather than a superhero and is about as popular with the general British public, who call him “SuperPrick” and “lazy shite” as he takes the film crew in his neighborhood.
Again, the film begins with Bob spending his day off doing the everyday things he hasn’t done the rest of the week – in this case, calling the gas suppliers or checking on his mother (Ruth Sheen) in his retirement home. In both incarnations, Goldstein’s likeable performance is what makes the character and his story so endearing.
He looks like a British superhero, like a hunky character from Aardman or a Paddington Bear who uses F-words more than harsh stares, but also embodies the no-nonsense national personality the film is aiming for – a self-deprecating figure. who knows they are not ideal but are trying their best.
Elsewhere, Catherine Tate associating her name with the feature is what helped make it happen after three years in development, and she’s clearly having fun playing Theresa in a different vein of Britishness. As the film’s release comes just before the various government upheavals of recent years, she is very funny when she tells interviewers that she is a big deal without any details, which seems to be more fashionable these days- this.
Its silly, light-hearted comedy is bolstered by the cast and script, and it’s not a VFX-heavy film like most other modern superhero films. Easily, he’s confident on a small scale, and he also lands a few hard hits that we haven’t really seen in films like this in recent years.
Beat the world?
One of Bob’s great displays of power doesn’t come in an action sequence, but in a romantic, dialogue-free beat that revolves around a slow superhero dance. Set in the middle of a fairly large and silly scene in a fairly large and silly movie, it’s a moving moment reminiscent of Richard Donner’s romance. Superman and don’t overload it.
Shortly after, there is a scene that touches on the base with all this great power and responsibility. There’s a sprawling auto crash setup that doesn’t rely on Bob being able to rip car doors off like unboxing a Twix or putting out fires with super blast, but rather being there for people when they need you. Even on your day off.
It’s a genuinely moving moment, coming shortly after the slow dance moment, and taken together, these beats elevate a light-hearted mockumentary into something unique. It’s a tough tightrope to walk but Bob remains a funny yet melancholic figure throughout the film.
Like Theresa, we deliberately talk about these tracks, but mostly to avoid spoiling them if you haven’t seen them. In the larger context of superhero films released in the same year, Super Bob undoubtedly holds its place against the behemoths of the genre at the box office.
Allowed, dead Pool effectively brings the adult romcom factor to the x-men frankness, but does so with a relatively larger budget and with a freer tone. We would add that the alarming rapidity of the return to the genre formula in the most expensive Deadpool 2 might just show the limits of how seriously you can take this particular character or their relationship in a tentpole movie.
Two other massive comic book movies from 2016, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War, both grappling with the implications of unsupervised superheroes, but both approach it hypothetically. Both films think seriously about the need for responsive superheroes. Planning a hero’s day can be cheap, but none of the biggest movies ever come up against what even the Donner movie did – what if you could do anything, but still couldn’t always save everything. world ?
Super Bob covered that though, and all of it in a lightweight mockumentary about a superhero with work-life balance. With its talking head interviews and romantic finale, it’s more When Harry Met Sally than When Batman Hit Supermanand he still puts his perspective on superheroes in a cohesive and charming way.
Goldstein then reunited with Tate to write the much-delayed spinoff of this week’s sketch show Nan movie(which was slated to hit theaters throughout summer 2020) and just last weekend won another Critics’ Choice Television Award for playing Roy Kent, to go along with his Emmy Award.
With Goldstein’s star on the rise, it’s encouraging to think that more people will discover Superbob, an understated, high-flying treat and reliable palate cleanser in the ongoing production line of superhero movies.
At the time of writing, the film is available to watch for free with adverts on IMDB TV and Pluto TV in the UK, or to rent and buy from all the usual places. If you fancy a taste, this 2009 short is still available on the Virgin Media Shorts YouTube page, and you can watch it below:
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