Robert Kenner (Brett Goldstein) used to be a postman in London until one fateful day when he was struck by a falling meteorite. The effects of this gave him superpowers such as incredible strength and the ability to fly, and six years later life may have changed dramatically for him, but it has not necessarily improved. He is now classified as a Civil Servant and performs various acts of heroism under the tutelage of the Ministry of Defence, overseen by Theresa (Catherine Tate) who makes sure he sticks to the rules he has had drawn up for him, including the forms he has to make everyone sign after he has saved them from whatever danger they were in. However, as SuperBob tells a documentary crew, he really wants a girlfriend…
But he won’t get one zooming around the world to the rescue every day except Tuesday which is his day off, as laid down by the United Nations. SuperBob began life as a tiny budget short film from director Jon Drever and his star, comedian Goldstein, but it was such a good idea that they thought there was potential in expanding it to feature length, which was how this eighty-minute comedy came about. It was part of the superhero craze inasmuch as it belonged to the subgenre of finding humour in the science fiction and action, but unlike something like the similarly British take on the style Bananaman, this didn’t have connections to any comics or cartoons, and was less interested in pitting its protagonist against bad guys.
So SuperBob doesn’t go into battle, which was quite refreshing when they could so easily have lapsed into building to a great big punch-up as so many did. Nope, this was more interested in fashioning a romantic comedy from the premise, with the adventurer actually pretty hopeless in his life away from the whole saving people thing, a nice guy but essentially a nerdy loser who if he wasn’t blessed with his powers would have disappeared into anonymity. Therefore while Goldstein had obviously been in the gym to pump up his muscular physique as befitting the character, he remained recognisably the sort of embarrassed British comedy character from a long tradition of such creations.
In truth, it was the first half where the biggest laughs were, sometimes crude as the script over-relied on colourful language to generate a few giggles, but mostly stemming from the interactions between SuperBob and such people as the officious Theresa who is more exploiting him as a PR opportunity than she is interested in making a positive difference in people’s lives, or his cleaner Doris (Natalia Tena) who is probably the woman he is closest to, something established as pathetic in the early stages. Doris is Colombian, and works in the care home where Bob’s mother (Ruth Sheen) stays, which leads to him having to pretend to her that Doris is his girlfriend just to keep the old lady happy in her increasingly confused state.
But he has in fact set up a date with a librarian, June (Laura Haddock), an American who is apparently flattered at the attention she is getting from this superhero, which is more than anyone else is in the deeply unimpressed borough of Peckham where he stays. Various convolutions unfold over the course of the rest of it, as the stakes are raised – emotionally, rather than placing anyone in any great peril – and the tone grows more serious, which would be a letdown if you were enjoying the stream of gags that were dwindling once the plot made itself plain. Special effects were used sparingly (thanks to budget restrictions, presumably), but were evidence they were becoming cheap enough to produce that even the lowest means were able to craft convincing setpieces, or throwaway jokes as was the case here. It ended up being fairly sweet, but unavoidably less than epic in scale, which was nice enough in its domestic way as perhaps more money thrown at it would have changed its make-do appeal. Music by Rupert Christie.