Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (2013) / Documentary
MPAA Rated: R for language, some sexual references, nudity and drug use
Running Time: 85 min.
Cast: Shep Gordon, Mike Myers, Alice Cooper, Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Arnold, Emeril Lagasse, Anne Murray, Willie Nelson
Director: Mike Myers, Beth Aala
Review published June 30, 2014
Comedian Mike Myers directs and produces this fluffy love letter to the person he calls the nicest guy he has ever met, drug dealer turned talent manager Shep Gordon, who made acts like Alice Cooper, Teddy Pendergrass and Emeril Lagasse household names. If ever a manager could be confused with a rock star, Gordon is it, living just as lavish and being just as respected, and partying hard with drugs and babes (including Playboy Playmates and stars like Sharon Stone), and personal meetings with the Dalai Lama. But there's more to him than just success, as this documentary examines his spiritual side, as well as his views on family, fame and friendships he has made along the way.
Now 68 years of age, Gordon is (mostly) retired from the business, living in his retreat in Maui where he still invites celebrities from all over the world to stay with him as long as they like, even if he isn't there. Myers had been clamoring for years for Gordon to sit and tell him his life story, as he was not only there during some very key eras in music, but he was the catalyst for some of them. But Gordon has always been about finding ways to make others famous, not himself, so getting him to sit for this documentary was by no means an easy feat. So why did Gordon finally agree to Myers' pleas to let him make this movie about his life? Because it would mean a lot to Mike, Gordon says. What a mensch!
Supermensch is a blend of talking-heads interviews with Gordon and about a dozen well-known stars and industry cohorts who all have one thing in common: love and respect for Shep Gordon, with lots of archival film and mock re-enactments (using stand-ins for Shep and celebs) to make us feel like we're really there along with Shep as he spins his verbal memoirs.
As much as Myers thinks he is making an important film about an important person, Supermensch never quite sells its subject matter's importance beyond industry insiders, or fans of the celebrities that Shep has managed. If you're a fan of Alice Cooper, you'll find this more tangentially interesting than someone who isn't, or if you just like to see how things were once done behind the entertainment scene, it does offer a few keen insights. And yet, Shep Gordon himself, while he seems like a very nice and interesting guy in many ways, is never shown to be someone worth $10 and 85 minutes of a stranger's life to get to know to this degree. In short, he's the least interesting person in the film about him (and he'd probably be the first to tell you that himself -- he is a supermensch after all).
While I'm giving Supermensch a 'worthwhile' grade, I should mention that it does often feel like a fan video, as Myers is a big idolizer of his subject. His enthusiasm for this talented, generous human being is a bit touching in and of itself, which makes his movie nearly impossible to dislike outright. Myers definitely has put a lot of his energy into this film, but it feels like it spent too much time in the oven, with far too many visual and aural interjections in interviews that don't really need enhancement. It does tend to step all over itself in trying to entertain, but eventually it hits its rhythm, and can be especially poignant when relating some of the downsides of fame, particularly in dealing with the tragic accident that befell Teddy Pendergrass, his failed marriage to a beautiful chef he wanted to start a family with, and his virtual adoption of an ex-girlfriend's entire family for no other reason than he has a generous and open heart.
By the end, you'll like Supermensch because you'll like Gordon, and while it's not a great doc, or something most people would ever think to repeat viewing, it's an amiable 85 minutes spent in good company.
©2014 Vince Leo