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Superdad

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Superdad Movie Poster Image
Dated gender roles, style eclipse appeal of '70s comedy.
  • G
  • 1973
  • 96 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Meant to entertain rather than educate.

Positive Messages

Teenage characters show that true friends are always there for each other and teenage love can be meaningful and long-lasting. Parents make mistakes too, but these may be motivated by love. A protest involves pro-environmental messages. Some male characters have outdated ideas of gender roles. Wendy is sent to a specific boarding house in college because "young ladies should behave."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Wendy's father lies and manipulates to get his way, but he's motivated by love and a desire to protect his daughter, give her a solid future. Her mother offers unconditional love, remembers what it was like to be a teenager. High school friends and couples are loyal to each other, do favors, make sacrifices for each other. The father's business partner has now-antiquated ideas about marrying young girls off. A crazy artist forces Wendy into an engagement when he gives her a painting, and her father has to get her out of the arrangement. A businessman is allowed to cheat at golf because he's the boss.

Violence & Scariness

A fight scene between two men in an artists' studio is largely played for comedy, including a gun that squirts paint and a giant club ripped off a statue, but there's some punching and knocking each other down, as well as the threat, "For this you will die." A large, friendly dog jumps on people, inciting one character to suggest, "It's the dog who should be shot." A character gets hurt in various beach activities, including a water-skiing accident, also played for comedy.

Sexy Stuff

Couples are shown kissing and hugging. Teenagers slow dance with the lights out at a living-room birthday party. Wendy's father is mistakenly accused and arrested for being a "peeping tom." A college dorm is coed.

Language

Mild insults such as "idiot," "nitwit," "birdbrain," "nuts," and "sounds like an Indian."

Consumerism

Brand-name products seen behind characters on store shelves include Kellogg's, Pledge, Heinz, Ajax, and Quaker. Recognizable locales include Chevron, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco International Airport.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink beer. Wendy's parents open a bottle of champagne in celebration. Adults offer college students liquor.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Superdad captures another place and time whose expectations and limitations for women could come as a shock to today's young viewers. Fathers discuss marrying their daughters off right out of high school. Women are shown as subservient to their husbands and boyfriends, even if they're clearly wiser. Similarly, today's viewers may have trouble relating to the carefree teen life depicted in the film, where nobody wore seatbelts and adults offered alcoholic drinks, where boys' clothes were skin-tight and girls' bikinis teensy-weensy, yet young couples outwardly expressed no sexual desire beyond hand-holding and kissing, where summer days and nights were spent innocently unsupervised with fun-loving friends at the beach. Though action scenes are played entirely for comedy, younger viewers may be a little frightened by the dad's water ski accident and a fistfight between two adult men. Mild insults include "idiot," "nitwit," "birdbrain," "nuts," and "sounds like an Indian."

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What's the story?

Charlie McCready (Bob Crane) might seem a candidate for the title of SUPERDAD when he goes out of his way to protect his teenage daughter, Wendy (Kathleen Cody). But things aren't what they seem: McCready's true motivations are to separate Wendy from her tight-knit group of childhood friends and longtime boyfriend, none of whom have ever met with his approval. Inspired by a TV psychologist to better understand Wendy by spending time with her friends, McCready stumbles into one physical calamity after another. That's when he gets serious, pulling connections to enroll Wendy in a better college away from home and encouraging her to date men he considers more appropriate husband material. He quickly realizes his mistake when her childhood friends turn out to be more loyal and upright than the new crowd she meets in college. Helped by her wiser mother, who finally steps in to straighten things out, Wendy makes her way back home -- and down the aisle.

Is it any good?

This movie is a relic of a time past, more likely to appeal to nostalgic parents and grandparents -- who may appreciate its social context and recognize its veteran actors -- than to contemporary teens. For younger audiences, the pace and tone could feel confusing as Superdad rambles between slapstick comedy and family drama, ultimately devolving into absurdity with a madcap fight on a houseboat and a final wedding scene with cheesy voice-over. The background visual effects, particularly in moving-car sequences, look laughably artificial. And, most notably, the early '70s notions of a father’s role in his daughter’s life are so out-of-date they risk offending kids raised on different values.

But taken as the lighthearted family comedy originally intended, the film has some appeal. As McCready, Bob Crane (of Hogan's Heroes fame) exudes decency and fatherly devotion, despite the character's flaws. He's also a master of the disparaging-dad look and has the physical dexterity and hilariously high-pitched scream to make the accident scenes funny. Other veteran actors keep the story moving, including Barbara Rush as the long-accommodating wife and Dick Van Patten as the flustered business partner proffering woefully-misguided advice. A startlingly young Kurt Russell, as the earnest beau, and Bruno Kirby, as comic sidekick, are both fun to watch. But poor Kathleen Cody is cut off at the knees as the wide-eyed, soft-spoken, bleached-blonde Wendy, incapable of standing up for herself or solving her own problems.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about McCready's behavior in Superdad and what characteristics a truly super father might or should have. Did McCready's good intentions justify his actions?

  • How are teenagers in the early 1970s portrayed in this film? What's different for teenagers today in terms of freedoms and expectations? Which time seems more attractive to be a teen?

  • How would you have reacted to McCready's meddling if you were Wendy or Bart? Do you think his wife should have stepped in sooner?

  • How would you compare this film with more contemporary teen movies like High School Musical or Twilight?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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