Hero at Large (1980) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: PG for language, some violence and sensuality
Running Time: 115 min.
Cast: John Ritter, Anne Archer, Bert Convy, Kevin McCarthy, Joyce Brothers (cameo), Kevin Bacon (cameo)
Director: Martin Davidson
Screenplay: AJ Carothers
Review published June 9, 2006
John Ritter (Stay Tuned, Sling Blade) plays starving New York actor Steve Nichols, who can't seem to catch a break. Needing a gig to pay the bills, Steve is hired to promote a blockbuster superhero film soon to be released, putting on the costume of Captain Avenger and making an appearance at a local theater. One day while in full costume, Steve heroically stops a hold-up at a grocery store, and news of the event soon hits the New York media, ravenous for a story about an honest-to-goodness superhero in their city. The movie promoters and the mayor's handlers also see an opportunity to exploit NYC's newest hero, trying get an endorsement from Steve that will get the mayor re-elected for sure, concocting phony crimes for Captain Avenger to thwart to save more New Yorkers from actors posing as criminals.
Hero at Large is a predictable but likeable comedic vehicle for Ritter, who filmed this while on hiatus from his work on the popular TV show "Three's Company". While it didn't do much to make him a movie star, it should please those that have enjoyed Ritter's character of Jack Tripper, as he exudes almost every bit of the same personality, save for the constant klutziness.
When the film stays low-key, such as when Steve attempts to woo next door neighbor J. (Archer, Patriot Games), or when he is ridiculed while showing up at the theater in full superhero regalia, the movie maintains an amiable sitcom-ish quality that plays to Ritter's strengths. Things get a bit creaky during the more serious second half of the film, with Nichols trying in vain to expound on the virtues of being a good citizen, only to be followed by a rather silly ending that tries to offer redemption for the heroic protagonist, but feels a bit pat to digest with any degree of the seriousness intended.
Hero at Large gets a mild recommendation for delivering an entertaining and occasionally thought-provoking look into the nature of what it means to be a hero, even one that has no real superpowers. Ritter fans should enjoy the experience more than those that don't care for his earnest antics, and the external shots in the bustling New York City streets are another asset. A clever idea for a comedy, albeit coated with simple-minded execution. but its charm and affability do make up for a lot.
©2006 Vince Leo