A struggling actor buying milk stops a robbery while wearing a superhero uniform, promoting a movie. The unknown hero decides to try again. Can he impress his cute neighbor?A struggling actor buying milk stops a robbery while wearing a superhero uniform, promoting a movie. The unknown hero decides to try again. Can he impress his cute neighbor?A struggling actor buying milk stops a robbery while wearing a superhero uniform, promoting a movie. The unknown hero decides to try again. Can he impress his cute neighbor?
Released in 1980, Hero at Large was released at the height of Three's Company's popularity. While John Ritter had become a popular staple of TV, he often struggling with headlining features with his films subjected to rather middling responses. Hero at Large did okay in its quiet February release slot, with contemporary views being very middle of the road and the majority of the film's exposure coming from airings on cable TV. In the years since it's release, Hero at Large has seen something of a resurgence in interest thanks to the prevalence of superhero themed comedies with entries such as Kick-Ass, Super, Defendor, and others. Hero at Large doesn't go as far with its premise as it could've, but as a prototype for this kind of film built around the framework of a romantic comedy it's pretty easy viewing.
John Ritter is what sells the movie. Hero at Large at its core takes the traditional trappings of seen in the glut of vigilante films of the 70s and 80s and files down their rougher edges filtering them through the lens of the goofy optimistic sincerity of the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve Superman films. Ritter is just an absurd level of nice and pleasant in the lead which makes him the perfect person for this role. Steve isn't interested in fame or glory and only does his amateur super heroics because he wants to do good. Anne Archer is also good playing the love interest Jolene Walsh who contrasts with Steve's outlandish likability and altruism embodying a more cynical and grounded persona. The scenes of them interacting together are filled with charm going from chance roommates to something more quite naturally. The romance is definitely the strongest part as the superhero section is rather scant.
While there are scenes of Steve engaging in superhero shenanigans, they're very brief save for a scene in the climax. There are sequences where we see hints of the larger scale of events inspired by Steve's actions such as a round table panel discussion show with notable pop psychologist Joyce Brothers playing herself espousing the virtues of Steve's outings as Captain Avenger, but this side of the movie feels underdeveloped with a rather low frills take on the material as there's really only five (though technically three) scenes where we see Steve in proper action. There's also a subplot with an unpopular mayoral incumbent wishing to utilize the Captain Avenger popularity to prop up his own limping campaign, but it doesn't really go anywhere save for leading to Steve's third act nadir.
Hero at Large is basically the prototype for the Superhero comedy subgenre and as a prototype you can definitely see the appeal and promise, but not much polish on the delivery. While the superhero aspect is played up in the marketing of the movie, Hero at Large is without question first and foremost a romantic comedy, and as a romantic comedy it has everything it needs with two solid leads, engaging chemistry, and a gentle but likable sense of humor. Hero at Large is the kind of movie that's nigh impossible to dislike and makes for a cute and pleasant little film.
- Sep 26, 2021