Super Dave Osbourne Faces his Most Insurmountable Challenge: his own Feature Film
DIRECTED BY PETER MACDONALD/2000
BLU-RAY STREET DATE: SEPTEMBER 13, 2022/KL STUDIO CLASSICS
“…I’m okay!!” So proclaims the so-called World’s Greatest Stuntman, Super Dave Osbourne, pretty much every time he’s become the victim of one of his own elaborate daredevil undertakings gone wrong. And they go wrong pretty much every time. That’s the bit. It’s only a matter of how and/or why. Every time.
Since his debut appearance in 1972, late comedian’s comedian Bob Einstein’s no-luck alter ego Super Dave Osborne was a reliably doomed presence for decades. Whether it was the character’s own Showtime series, being a fixture on the adult sketch comedy program Bizarre, Einstein appearing in character on late night talk shows, or a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon series on Fox Kids, there was no stopping ol’ “S.D.”.
The Super Dave bits were ludicrous, juvenile single gag constructs delieved with precision timing that, once sprung, overrode the typically way-drawn-out straight-faced set-up and predictability of how the stunt will go wrong. Aided as always by his trusty rigger, engineer, and trusty helper Fuji Hakayito (comedian Art Irizawa doing a bit that stopped aging well well before the turn of the millennium, but these guys don’t let that deter them) and his announcer Mike Walden (announcer Mike Walden) always on the receiving end of the defeated stuntman’s thumbs up/scorn, Super Dave fan could alway be certain of a simply smashing finale. As scores of his more-successful peers testify in the recent HBO documentary tribute to Einstein, no one did these sorts of live-action Wile E. Coyote gags better. In fact, no one was doing them at all. Super Dave had his niche, and he was indestructible in it.
But then there was the insurmountable. The one obstacle that “Supe” (as he liked to be called) couldn’t get passed. You and I know it as “The Big Screen”. To him, it was the ideal clean slate for his theatrical starring debut. It would be a laugh riot! A cornucopia of special guests! (Look for Ray Charles, Billy Barty, John Elway, Evander Holyfield…) Super Dave’s biggest stunts yet!! In a word, it would be… Extreme!!!
True to the title character’s luck, however, the movie failed to stick the landing. In fact, it fails to stick much of anything. Besides its misfiring dopey title The Extreme Adventures of Super Dave has several other things working against it. Not only is the screenplay weak (even by Super Dave standards), but there’s also the issue of its lack of a proper budget. All throughout the film, someone has to explain why the gathered crowds for these death-defying stunts are either minuscule or non-existent. Whereas the venerable TV segments embraced their budgetary shortcomings with obvious “dummy deaths”, cheesy end results (see: the crushed Super Dave as just his helmeted head and a pair of shoes) and phony-baloney set structures, this theatrical movie (as it was intended; it ended up going directly to home video after a long delay) can’t harness any of that. Perhaps it’s because the feature film side of things is the one media avenue where one might expect increased production values and more laser-focused execution. Instead, it’s gratingly cheap and bad.
Accomplished second unit director and Rambo III helmer Peter MacDonald’s mishandling of the film’s numerous physical stunts are confounding and kinda sad. MacDonald is interviewed by film historian Daniel Kremer in the form of a new audio commentary track that spans the entire length of the movie. All is explained here, as the director states up front that he only made this because he was “under contract”, and despite his own understanding that he wasn’t the right guy for this, he was told that he had no choice. Apparently, MacDonald was indentured at the last bastion of the long-antiquated studio system at the turn of the century?
Anyhow, the commentary track (and by extension, the Blu-ray acquisition) is worth it for his many thoroughly unrelated but more interesting anecdotes from his amazing life working on much higher profile sets such as Superman, The Magic Christian, The Girl on a Motorcycle, and many more. Kremer does as good of a job as anyone could in trying to keep MacDonald on track, occasionally bringing him back to Super Dave, even though it’s quite obvious he’d rather talk about other things.
An otherwise no-frills release (some Super Dave TV sketches would’ve been great, but alas, no), the A/V is just fine. The plot, in which Supe gets hoodwinked by a hotshot protégé (Steve Van Wormer) led by sleazy showbiz manager (Dan Hedaya) but ends up helping a sick kid named Timmy (Carl Michael Lindner) and dating said kid’s mother (Gia Carides of Strictly Ballroom fame), is what it is. The only reason a movie like this needs a plot is to have a structure to wrap the gags around. The completely stock plot (right down to the sick kid being named “Timmy”) might’ve served as a fun jumping-off point for whatever formal satire Einstein and company might’ve had in mind, but that too falls flat. Instead, we get tired mimes-are-annoying jokes (seriously, what was the deal with comedians and mime-bashing??), poor staging, and uneven everything else. Suffice to say, the only thing extreme about The Extreme Adventures of Super Dave is disappointment. One epic fart joke aside, it is not even okay as a time-killer. Thumbs down, Super. Thumbs down.