SUPER POWER GAINED FROM WATCHING MOVIE: The Ability to Instantly Bore with Good Natured Hokum.
Jack Tripper: Scourge of Puerto Rican Stick-Up Men; Win, Lose, or Badly Act; Anne “Golden” Archer; Senator “Not Emperor” Palantine; Invasion of the Paycheck Snatchers; Doc Joyce Brothers: Healer of the Merv Griffin Viewing Masses; and Captain Avenger: Defender of Stripped Fancy-Pants.
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Steve (John Ritter) is a struggling New York actor and hoo-hum doofus who makes ends meet by dressing up and greeting fans of panty-waist Captain Avenger to promote a movie based on the comic book hero. When he’s not patting the greasy heads of ungrateful rugrats, he practices heroic poses in the mirror, starves, and tries to score with career woman and next door neighbor Marsh (Anne Archer). Marsh is a set decorator for TV commercials and exhibits little to no interest in Steve’s swishy but hard-bodied antics. She dismisses him as a dreamer with no real goals or plans for the future. Steve takes her rejection with sullen but hopeful self-belief. That and a spandex speedo-bound boner. Meanwhile, a mayoral race is heating up and cutthroat publicists Walter (Bert Convy) and Calvin (Kevin McCarthy) need an angle to get their wildly unpopular incumbent over. That night, Steve in full-on Captain Avenger gear stops at a corner market and foils a robbery. The story hits the newspapers and this mysterious new hero is a hit. Cue Bonnie Tyler. Steve finally sees an opportunity to show Marsh he’s more than just the star of a sitcom built on neck-jerking double-entendres and boobies. But it occurs to him that he can be something more, he can serve as a symbol of optimism for the disillusioned and smelly citizens of New York. But the unscrupulous Walter and Calvin have something more in mind. They recruit Steve to don the Avenger tights and thwart fake crimes in the hopes of cranking up the hype so that Steve can eventually endorse the Mayor. But when an equally unscrupulous TV reporter uncovers the truth about Steve, he’s going to have to really think about what it takes to be hero. Right after he bangs Anne Archer.
Hero at Large is a conventional and dull as rocks vehicle for the very likable Ritter, who was at the heights of his Three's Company fame. Unfortunately, this flick didn’t exactly get him booted out of the Roper’s duplex and into the blockbuster stratosphere. His unsuccessful transformation from TV star to movie star didn't dent his reputation, as he essentially changed little of his good-natured persona from tube to screen, well except for all the falling down gags. Regardless, the movie remains slightly entertaining despite its glacial pace and spotty humor. A serious tone dominates the second half of the movie, when Ritter and Archer try to get a romantic chemistry going amidst the Captain Avenger mania and Steve’s self-doubt about what he’s trying to accomplish by posing as a superhero. It also gets a little preachy with some heavy-handed sermonizing about good citizenship and helping one another with a seemingly tagged-on ending that pits an all too real challenge to Steve’s belief in heroism. The movie could have been a clever outing if there was less of a TV-movie feeling and more laughs to pad out its author’s message. I can only mildly recommend the monotonous Hero at Large, but fans of the late Ritter may enjoy this one more, if just to see his affable talent at an early stage.