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Emmys 2017
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'Sunshine Superman': EW review

Posted on

Sunshine Superman

Current Status:
In Season
101 minutes
Limited Release Date:
Carl Boenish
Marah Strauch

We gave it a B+

Christened the “Me Decade,” the 1970s were defined by individual quests for enlightenment and spiritual fulfillment. Some seekers threw their lot in with the Hare Krishnas, some tried to unleash their human potential with Werner Erhard’s marathon est seminars, and some, like skydiver Carl Boenish, brought an almost evangelical fervor to the limit-pushing allure of outdoor adventure. Not only was Boenish a man of his moment, he was also light-years ahead of it, anticipating the explosion in the kinds of authority-defying extreme sports that are now firmly embedded in the mainstream. Marah Strauch’s gripping documentary about Boenish’s life on land and in the air shows how this sunny optimist ditched a career as an electrical engineer at Hughes Aircraft to follow his love of skydiving full-time. Soon his feats would grow more and more outrageous and dangerous, as he graduated from parachuting out of airplanes to illegally jumping from Yosemite’s El Capitan and downtown L.A. skyscrapers as one of the daredevil originators of the BASE-jumping movement. He was like Evel Knievel with a blissed-out smile and a rip cord…until he pushed too far. Interviews with Boenish’s wife, Jean, give his life story perspective and heart, especially in the film’s tragic finale. But elsewhere, Strauch tries too hard to turn her documentary into something it’s not, using Man on Wire-style caper reenactments to spice up a story that doesn’t require an ounce of extra seasoning. B+