Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Greg Mottola's SUPERBAD ***

Greg Mottola’s absurdly profane movie Superbad is another comedic production courtesy of producer/writer/director Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up). Here, Mottola, who directed episodes of Apatow’s short lived television series Undeclared as well as the terrific independent film The Daytrippers, is working with a script from flavor of the month (and for good reason) Seth Rogen, the star of this summer’s Knocked Up, and Rogen’s buddy Evan Goldberg. And it’s a funny movie to be sure; it’s beyond crude and almost obsessively vulgar, but at the same time, perceptive, honest, and ultimately sweet-hearted. But it’s also one of those comedies that alternates between being “smart-funny” and “stupid-funny,” and occasionally veers off into total absurdity. But beyond some tonal inconsistencies, the audience is left chuckling all throughout, no matter how asinine or cartoonish the story line gets.

Arriving on the heels of Knocked Up, which was a sharper, better directed, more consistent comedy, Superbad tells the typical high school story of three high school senior dorks who are trying to pop their cherries before they head off to college. The slight and unassuming Michael Cera is Evan, who’s so timid and afraid of girls, that he can barely put together a coherent sentence towards the opposite sex, let alone a smooth pick-up line. His best friend Seth, played by the portly and exuberant Jonah Hill, is a loud-mouth clown with a curly bush of hair and not a clue in the world when it comes to girls. The third wheel in their posse is the uber-dork Fogell, played by newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who steals just about every scene that he’s in. Evan and Seth are invited to a big end of the year party being thrown by the hottest girls in school. They tell the ladies that they can get everyone booze, as Fogell is having a fake ID made. When Fogell returns with a terrible looking ID, complete with the phony name “McLovin,” Seth and Evan freak out and fear that their plan of scoring alcohol to impress the ladies will be quashed. One crazy event leads to another and the guys are lead through the night on a wild journey around town, mixing it up with two doofus cops (played by Rogen and Bill Hader), while trying deliver the promised booze and scoring with the girls.

Rogen and Goldberg have said that much of what happens in Superbad is based on events that happened to them while they were growing up (just look at the names of the two lead characters). Their superior talent in writing authentic, extremely adolescent and vulgar dialogue is matched by nobody else working in film. The individual lines of dialogue come so fast and furious, that some of the best lines will be missed due to constant laughing on the part of the audience. What the characters are saying may sound disgusting (and some of it is), but it’s almost always smart, truthful, and at times, oddly moving. Rogen and Goldberg, as well as Mottola, who directs in a very low-key fashion, all know the ins and outs of awkward teenage life, and Superbad excels when dealing with the sexual frustrations shared by the three guys. Where they go wrong is with the subplot with the cops played by Rogen and Hader. While some of their stuff is amusing, the over-the-top nature of their shenanigans seems completely out of place with the believability of the rest of the film. When you have such honest and genuinely funny interplay between the three leads mixed with bits of extreme idiocy with two guys who never once seem like real police officers, the tone of the film shifts wildly from sharp comedy to crazy cartoon-like behavior. It doesn’t ruin the movie, but it keeps it from entering the upper echelon of this genre, where movies like Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin reside.

In the end, Superbad is a funny film made by a really talented, witty group of guys. Cera, Hill and Mintz-Plasse have a natural chemistry on screen and the lovable relationship that Cera and Hill’s characters have for each other is touching without being overly sentimental. The pains of growing up have been showcased on the big screen many times, but seldom have they seemed this honest and hilarious.

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