Jeff Daniels writes, directs, and stars in the movie as Fred Barlow, a struggling but fulfilled door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. When his rival competitor, Winslow Schnaebelt (Harve Presnell), agrees to a "winner takes all" contest, they begin an all-out competition to see who can sell the most vacuums over a limited time period.
At first, Schnaebelt and his team take an overwhelming lead over Barlow. However, when Barlow discovers his wife having a red-hot affair, not with another man, but with a long lost vacuum attachment, the tables turn as he begins a new campaign that changes the home cleaning industry forever: Barlow begins selling the drapery attachments as self-pleasure devices. ("It will clean every rug in the house -- including yours!")
Even the wackos in New York and LA may have a difficult time laughing at the uncomfortable, offensive jokes in this movie. Unfortunately, they will have to travel to select cities in the Midwest to see it. Since the film was made in Jackson, Michigan, it's only being released in Michigan and a few surrounding states -- the most conservative area in the country. Many of these right-wing audiences who are expecting another harmless Escanaba in da Moonlight will find themselves running for the exit in astonishing discomfort.
Take the press screening that I attended. Since Daniels took careful measures in not giving away the plot in press releases, not many critics in the audience were suspecting the first scene in which a woman has loud, wild intercourse with a sweeper. Nobody laughed, but instead people exchanged distraught glances. One woman rushed to the exit while another complained to the person sitting next to her.
Although most of the poorly executed humor falls flat on its face, early in the movie there are good laughs. For instance, there is one hilarious scene that observes Barlow's novice sales associate performing a Super Sucker demonstration to potential customers -- a presentation that one particular house cat does not appreciate.
Unfortunately, the humor quickly spirals downward, becoming a nauseating, repulsive, one-joke comedy. The idea of people having sex with their vacuum cleaners isn't remotely strong enough to sustain an entire comedy, but Daniels doesn't realize that. He stretches the joke as far as he can, and it isn't long before the humor loses all of its appeal. The movie simply has nowhere to go, so it runs around in circles until the conclusion ends the audience's misery.
Super Sucker also suffers from a lack of talent on screen. Beyond the always-entertaining Daniels, who delivers a bouncy, riotous performance, the cast appears as if they're acting on stage, not on film. Their expressions are too big and unconvincing, as if they're emphasizing the jokes behind every word. Veteran actor Presnell suffers from this larger-than-life stage syndrome. Even the extras, mostly local mid-Michigan volunteers, define the reason as to why the Great Lakes State is not an area in which talent agents prosper.
Despite the deadpan performances, Super Sucker fails primarily due to bad taste. Daniels has certainly developed a unique and outrageous concept, but those adjectives do not necessarily spell laughs; in the case of Super Sucker, they spell an unwelcome addition to indie cinema. Frankly, there are some things that society just doesn't need to see, and Super Sucker is definitely at the top of that list.
No joke. It really sucks!
Run time: 93 mins
In Theaters: Sunday 24th February 2002
Distributed by: Purple Rose Films
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 29%
Fresh: 4 Rotten: 10
IMDB: 4.5 / 10
Director: Jeff Daniels
Producer: Tim Spiroff
Screenwriter: Jeff Daniels
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