The live-action Disney comedy Superdad is awful but weirdly fascinating. Although the title promises one of the studio’s special-effects farces, Superdad is instead a misguided attempt at dramatizing the generation gap. Uptight father Charlie McCready (Bob Crane) frets that his daughter, recent high-school graduate Wendy (Kathleen Cody), is wasting the summer before college; she’s spending all her time with friends including her childhood sweetheart, Bart (Kurt Russell), while waiting to hear if she’s gotten a scholarship to her parents’ alma mater. Charlie’s jazzed about the scholarship possibility because attending the far-away college would separate Wendy from Bart and the gang. Watching TV one night, Charlie hears a pop psychologist suggest that parents should try getting hip to their teenagers’ lifestyles, so Charlie tags along for a disastrous day of beach volleyball and water-skiing. Disgruntled, Charlie slips back into control-freak mode and tricks Wendy into thinking she won the scholarship. Predictably, Wendy goes to pieces when driven away from her friends. At college, Wendy gets “engaged” to a counterculture artist, forcing Charlie (and Bart) to intervene.
Tiresome in every respect, this movie about the generation gap is, inadvertently, a product of the generation gap—the clueless middle-aged Disney pros behind the camera depict teens as airheaded twits who do nothing but laugh and sing all day, making the kids seem like G-rated hippies. (The scene of the gang driving around while they warble an insipid song called “Los Angeles” against a backdrop of ugly process shots is particularly painful.) Oddly, the adults don’t come off looking much better, since Charlie is less of a Superdad and more of a Superdouche. He lies to his family, maligns the people Wendy loves, scowls at everything, and tries to dominate everyone he meets. It’s also difficult to accept Crane as a squeaky-clean Disney paterfamilias knowing that in his offscreen life, he was a sex addict who ran with a dangerous crowd. As for Disney stalwart Russell, it’s to his great credit that the romantic subplot comes across fairly well, especially since Cody is a bottle-blonde cipher, but his sincere performance belongs in a better movie.