Friends, do you possibly remember 1980’s Hero at Large – the comedy romance film that starred the late and great John Ritter as an actor turned real-life superhero named Captain Avenger? Hero at Large was a film that was on constant rotation on the Movie Channel when I was a kid – being a fan of Ritter from his role as Jack Tripper in the popular ABC sitcom Three’s Company – I would just sit down in front of the television and watch it every single time it was being broadcast. While it is indeed a comedy, what made me such a fan of the film is just how much heart the movie has – with John Ritter the perfect actor to play the lead of Steve Nichols – just radiating his usual charm.
The film does a great job of letting the audience go along with Nichols’ journey as well – a struggling actor/cab driver who is hired to appear at theaters opening a film featuring the comic book character Captain Avenger. Steve finds himself caught up in a media frenzy when he ends up stopping a hold up at a local shop – all the while still wearing his Captain Avenger suit from his theater appearance. I think it is safe to say that Nichols who is truly a good soul, becomes enamored with the idea that he can make a difference as a symbol for the city of New York including fighting actual crime – the filmmakers wisely show the dangers of trying to be a vigilante too. Throw in a scheme by an agent played by Bert Convy of Tattletales and Super Password password fame – along with a team of politicians led by Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) to help get the current Mayor re-elected by using appearances of the ‘real-life’ Captain Avenger and you have a bit of drama. Plus there is the love interest played by Anne Archer (Patriot Games), who in addition acts as the voice of reason in the film – trying her best to get Nichols to see the dangers his naivete keeps him walking straight into.
Hero at Large is a straightforward film and I’ve read a couple of places online – like Roger Ebert’s original review of it – that correctly point out it actually feels like a made-for-TV movie. Actually, Martin Davidson, who Directed the film who go on to do 1983’s Eddie and the Cruisers before working mostly in television. In the end, Hero at Large is a family-friendly film with a positive message about the goodness that is inherent in all of us – we don’t need capes and superpowers to make the World a better place. That uplifting idea is thanks to the screenplay by AJ Carothers who wrote for both film and TV with the likes of My Three Sons, Miracle of the White Stallions, The Happiest Millionaire, The Magical World of Disney, and even 1987’s The Secret of My Success.
While I’ve not personally ever seen a DVD for Hero at Large it appears that one was produced – furthermore the movie is available for rent… pretty cheaply… on everything from iTunes to YouTube. So if you are in the mood for a feel-good film why not check out Hero at Large and help celebrate it’s 40th anniversary? Besides it also features none other than Kevin Bacon in an uncredited role as a young punk who gives John Ritter a hard time!