Thursday, May 1, 2008

Commander Kellie and the Superkids: The Sword

This is the perfect movie to start my video review section off with a whimper. Aimed at young kids and dumbed down to fetus level, Commander Kellie and the Superkids: The Sword is wonderfully, delightfully terrible.

The Sword is at least the third (or possibly fourth) Superkid adventure from Kenneth Copeland Ministries, starring Ken's daughter Kellie as the titular commander. I think the story is supposed to be set in the future; no doubt the exact time and place for these stories was given in a previous adventure. What can be gleaned is this - a powerful broadcast media company called NME (clever, huh?) has taken over the airwaves to promote The Lie.

However, the Superkids - a secret organization made up almost entirely of children - fights back with their own broadcast network, SKTV. The Superkids basically steal airtime from NME so they can spread the Christian message and sing lame songs. This is a musical, and the movie frequently pauses for songs like You've Got To Know Who You Are In Jesus or Faithful Friend, even if the songs don't have anything to do with the story.

SKTV has its home in Superkid Academy, a Starship Enterprise-like secret base where cute kids walk around spouting technobabble. Commander Kellie runs the show, and leads a crack team of Bible-knowing teenagers known as the Blue Squad: Paul, Missy, Rapper, Valerie and Alex. They all wear blue Star Trek: The Next Generation outfits, and refer to the Bible as the Superkid Manual. "This is our weapon!" Commander Kellie says, holding up the Bible... er, Manual during a pivotal scene, and indeed it is: their endless quoting from it could put any enemy into a coma.

Over at NME, the shots are called by Major Dread. Yes, Major Dread. He's a rolly-poley dude with a scruffy beard who looks as threatening as McDonaldland's Grimace. It seems he wasn't successful in destroying the Superkids in the previous adventures, because his boss has come to run the show. His boss's name? General Fear. The actor playing him looks like a former pro-wrestler, and has about as much acting talent. However, he at least manages to say his own name with a straight face. Fear's right hand man is Captain Verath, a baldie with a thick mustache and pants designed to look like assless chaps. Dread also has a lackey, but I never caught his name.

Silly though they seem, NME has a workable plot-driving plan. General Fear has located Superkid Academy, and has successfully planted a spy in their midst. At the same time, he's had a scientist named Timothean build him a huge machine called The Sword (Secret Weapon Of Radical Deception - I bet the writers spent all night coming up with that one), which will give him power over every electronic media device in the world. It seems they already have that power - no competitors to NME are named - but at least it will enable them to permanently block SKTV. "We will see how strong Commander Kellie and the Superkids' faith is," Fear says, "when they come face to face with real fear!"

Back at SK Academy, a new recruit named C.J. has just joined the Blue Squad. She runs into the room carrying a bomb (no, not a copy of their previous video), and the technobabble and Manual-quoting goes into overdrive. CJ saves the day and gains acceptance, and immediately sets to work driving a wedge between the other Blue Squad members by creating false gossip. This leads the Blue Squad into a state where they are mildly uncomfortable around each other, but Valerie senses more evil may be afoot: "If we don't get in with the Word and find out who we are in Christ, Satan is going to deceive us."

Incidentally, the Superkids always refer to their enemy as being Satan, not General Fear or Major Dread. Commander Dana, a character who appears out of nowhere with no explanation, explains to the Blue Squad that the Devil's lies reveal him to be a liar. Thanks, Dana. Glad you could make it. And those NME guys never refer to Satan as their ultimate boss, though one is led to assume they do his work. Also, Fear repeatedly says that what he is spreading is a Lie, and he acknowledges that the power behind the Superkids is real power. Kinda defeatist, if you ask me. I guess the producers wanted to be sure kids understood who was who. Like I said, dumbed down to fetus level.

Anyway, back to the plot(and if you don't like SPOILERS, now's the time to bail out). NME broadcasts a big announcement - the Superkids have joined them! That's the Lie, you see - Fear has created exact doubles of Commander Kellie and the Superkids, who will now sing lame songs for him! How Fear achieved this - cloning? holograms? masks? - is never explained.

The Blue Squad head out to NME to find out what's going on, and are captured in short order. Luckily they are put into a cell with Dr. Timothean, the dude who built The Sword, and who also put handy-dandy self-destruct code in there. Gosh, that'll be handy! They escape, and cheap special effects take over.

Back at SK Academy, CJ is revealed as the spy (big surprise) She duels with Commander Kellie, but is ultimately won over to Christ. CJ gets Saved, The Sword is destroyed, and another song get sung.

To call this video bad is like clubbing a baby seal that's already dying of cancer. The acting is terrible - some actors look at the camera, others spout their lines as if they only just learned them and are desperate to get them right - and the dialogue is horrible, but everyone is so damned EARNEST. This story has a Message, and it Means Something, but their utter seriousness only makes the lameness stand out more.

To be fair, they aren't always serious; they have a comic relief robot named Techno, who says silly robotic things. Also, Major Dread and his lackey keep getting into trouble, and General Fear keeps pointing out their stupidity. I suppose one is meant to laugh at that stuff.

This is essentially Power Rangers for Christ, but without the kicking and punching. It might entertain very young kids, and the Message will satisfy devout parents' desire for family-friendly viewing. Everyone else, I'm guessing, will shake their heads and laugh in all the wrong places.

Likely To Convert - 1
Production Values - 2
Acting/Direction - 2
Likely To Be Sat Through - 3
Unintentional Hilarity - 6
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 0


Louka said...

I am now totally tempted to rent this or one of this series and have a girl's night throwing popcorn at the tv.

Timothy Carter said...

Sounds like fun. I'll bring the beer & pizza.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this video is actually very well made. It gets kids attention and lets them hear God's word. It was not made for jobless chumps like yourself who sit around and watch every movie ever made. It is "Commander Kellie and the superkids" meaning it is directed to KIDS. Although I do believe that is about where your maturity level is.

Anonymous said...

Umm... I'd just like to say... I'm a Christian, and I watched this movie a few times growing up... and I actually enjoyed it... and I found your blog while looking for a youtube video of this movie. Incidentally, I'm in a film program at a Christian college... and I absolutely loved your review. It was genuinely hysterical, and hysterical in the sense that you meant it to be. I couldn't help but enjoy your review. ...But I'm still gonna try to find it on youtube. LOL you know how nostalgia works...

I do think that you've overdone the Chick tracts.. I mean, I feel like a third-grader could comment intelligently about how lame they are. ...Though I have to admit, you do it with such style. :)

Have you reviewed "Thief in the Night?"

Laura said...

Thanks for sharing this review! I just came across this page after pulling the movie out to watch once again with some friends.

We got a chuckle out of the acting skills (or lack of) and the over-all low quality of the video as you described pretty accurately. :) I hadn't seen it in quite awhile, but remember enjoying it when it came out in 1997!

Despite the chessy-ness, I also found it encouraging! I was really surprised when a scene brought tears to my eyes; the part where at the heighth of chaos and confusion, Commander Kellie takes hold of the sword and boldy declares God's promises in the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation. Reflecting on the years from when I first watched it to today, I saw how God has proven Himself to be faithful through all the hard times! And for every lie that "Major Dread" or "General Fear"(lol.) has spoken into my life, God has always given a promise, truth above those lies, to stand on. So I suppose those were tears of thankfulness anyway..He's just so good. Yeah, gotta cringe at some of the terribly over-obvious symbolism, but also gotta smile at the living realitys behind the scenes. :)

Timothy Carter said...

Thanks, Laura and the two Anonymouses! These are exactly the kinds of comments I'm hoping to stir up. Keep 'em coming!

Anonymous said...

Hey Brilliant review, I must say that the superkids was a big part of my childhood, I loved reading the comics and the films in my eyes were the greatest thing ever. You really should do a review of the sequel 'Judgement'...

Sara said...

The future in this movie is one where NME rules the airwaves completely. The superkids have the 'last' free transmitter (though another station with one is later discovered in the fourth movie) so they are the only opposition to NME, who seeks to rule by fear. They produce movies and TV shows full of violence and lies. In fact, in the first movie, The Intruder, Commander Kellie starts off their first broadcast by saying "We interrupt this regular disgusting program to bring you a message of hope." Okay, that may not be word for word, but since my brother was just watching this series all through about two times today (he's home from school with strep throat and is seven) I think I'm close.

NME targets children for their plans to dominate the world. Regardless of the oftentimes stupid plans they come up with their goal is the correct one for anyone trying to overtake the world. Control kids, you control the future. "The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next." - Abraham Lincoln

In your mind, the whole thing is pretty lame because you have freedom of speech, but imagine a time when you were not allowed to post any of your criticism about the media because the government would threaten your home, your family and friends, and your very life.

The superkids aren't just about spreading Jesus, they are also about taking back the rights of the people to speak out freely without fear of persecution.
As for the quoting of the bible and Christian messages what did you expect when the movie was produced by one of the biggest televangelists in the southern US? If you don't want to hear it, don't watch it!

The songs are actually quite good - when compared with the earlier movies - and they fit in with the movie exactly. "You've Got to Know" was sung directly after a broadcast about knowing who you are in Jesus and not believing the lies of the enemy - which is a major theme in the movie. "Faithful Friend" is about God staying with us even in troubled times, like the trials the superkids face in the movie. "I'll Trust You Jesus" (sung on the way to the dungeon) is one of my favorites in the entire series because it is about surrendering to God our lives and trusting him to get us out of situations like the one the superkids face.

General Fear and Major Dread, acknowledge that God's power is real, so they are just like Satan - people who are trying to overpower God, which goes beyond simply not believing. People do this all of the time without even really stopping to think. They think they can do things by their own power. They don't want to surrender, and even at the end of the fourth movie the battle still isn't finished.

Commander Dana appears first in the second movie, Armor of Light, as another Commander. After all, someone has to run the show while Kellie is away.

The doubles are real though (not holograms like you suggested), because the fake Paul, Ian, appears in the fourth film and plays a pivotal role.

Oh, and to make a minor criticism of your writing in general, having 'handy' in the sentence right after saying 'handy-dandy' is a little odd. The sarcasm is obvious with just one or the other, both just makes you sound weird.
Also, "and another song get sung"?

You surprise me that you don't even mention the fact that CJ is Professor Timothean's daughter, and because after he talks to her through a video (how he managed to send that remains a mystery) CJ decides to aide Commander Kellie. She helps Kellie determine who the real superkids are when she 'shoots' the Commander and the real blue squad immediately pray.

You have to view such a movie as this from the point of view of a child, which might be difficult for someone as 'grown up' as you. It's like asking 8-year olds to give their opinions on current propulsion technologies in spaceships.

DanielB said...

"and because after he talks to her through a video (how he managed to send that remains a mystery)"

This was a decent movie when I was 12 years old, but even then, that particular plothole almost ruined it for me.

Tiana said...

Not such a plothole, when you remember Professor Timothean is standing in the heart of the SWORD machine, that can take over any electronic device in the world. Maybe God told him exactly where his daughter was and he used the machine to send his video to her there. I've seen God do stranger things.

I originally watched these movies as they were coming out, so consider the fact that I was 10 when The Sword came out. But I was hooked as a kid. Those movies were a big reason behind why I started writing and acting; I used to stage remakes of Judgment in our backyard (with me as Commander Kellie; she's been my hero since I was 9).

Yes, the acting makes me smile now, as a theatre major about to graduate after five years in a good theatre program. But I still get chills when Commander Kellie talks. Because when she speaks her lines, she doesn't have to act: what she says is so in her heart that she just has to talk.

I also think this movie is a sideways commentary on how much our lives revolve around technology. General Fear (yes, all right, the names of the bad guys are silly, but it IS for children) says he can take over the world by putting a lie out on the airwaves. Consider what that would mean today, with the majority of pre-teens and teenagers living their lives with their iPods, computers, TVs, game systems...this movie has impact today, even if it is a bit dated.

I will say, though, that it amuses me greatly that the actor who played Professor Timothean was the only trained actor on set, and he often felt the most stilted to me.

Tiana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

i actually owned all 4 of the super kid videos and the music video when i was little and loved them! watched them everyday. i did laugh when i read this though lots of funny stuff!

Anonymous said...

Oh how I loved me some SKA. Not only did I have all 4 movies, I had the soundtrack, 2 giant coloring books, 10 chapter books, wall poster, 3 miscellaneous other books, and a subscription to the magazine. Still have most of this stuff too -- not ashamed to admit it! Remember the time Carman showed up? XD Love it!