Judd Apatow is a on top of the comedy world right now. Apatow has been behind my two favorite comedies of the last three years that didn’t involve anyone saying “U-S and A”, those two films being Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin. Both of these movies managed to take high concept stories and made them hilarious largely because of they A. had absolutely laugh out loud hilarious and profane dialogue between established groups of friends, and B. had real human stories to contain the aforementioned dialogue. The new film Superbad, is largely considered to be Apatow’s follow up to Knocked Up, which is strange considering Apatow neither wrote nor directed the film, he merely produced the film along with three other credited producers. Television director Greg Mottola was the director, but the comparisons to Apatow’s two previous projects are valid, Superbad takes the idea behind those two projects, executes them nearly as well, and the result is another great comedy from team Apatow.
I started my review of Judd Apatow’s last project, Knocked Up, I said it was one of the most original unoriginal movies ever made. I’m tempted to recycle that line again for his new project Superbad, it takes a stock storyline we’ve seen done a thousand time and finally does it right. While The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up largely focused on a single character ad his circle of friends, Superbad acts as more of an ensemble piece between three characters. The two characters at the center of the film are Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) two unpopular high school seniors who will be going to different collages the next year. The two manage to get themselves invited to a party where their respective crushes Jules (Emma Stone) and Becca (Martha MacIsaac) will both be attending and, as Seth hopes, be drunk and horny. The catch is, the two are expeted to be supplying the alcohol at the party and the person in possetion of the fake I.D. they claimed to have is Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a nerdy figure who seems to be a secondary friend to the pair. Getting the booze to the party turns out to be far more complicated than either of the boys imagined. The pair and Fogell are separated; Seth and Evan find themselves at the redneck house party from Hell, while Fogell is given a ride by the two most irresponsible police officers this side of Bad Lieutenant.
The plot of Superbad makes it sound like the same raunchy teen comedy you’ve been watching for years. The difference is that Superbad isn’t really a teen movie, it’s an adult comedy about teens, that’s not to say teens won’t enjoy it (they will), but there’s more going on here than the hormone fueled hijinx of something like Porkey’s. It may be hard for many audiences to understand the sophistication of a film that has 186 uses of the F-word, a joke involving period blood, and an adolescent with a fake ID involving identifying him as McLovin (no first name, just Mclovin), but there is a reason for all this. The dialogue is profane, but if you listen to the way actual way 17 year old male adolescents talk, you’ll find this is simply an accurate portrayal.
Superbad has more in common with Linklater’s Dazed and Confused than it does with American Pie. The movie seems to be made with a certain sense of nostalgia, not for any era (the film is set in modern times) but for youth in general. The film explores many of the issues covered in Alfonso Curon’s Y Tu Mama Tambien except in a far more comedic way. The relationship between Seth and Evan feels real, and their eventual coming of age revelations are cathartic. The story seems to come from a very personal place. It is probably not a coincidence that the film’s writers are named Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. I’ll admit that the moral story here is not masterful, it certainly can’t live up to a dramatic story covering the same topics (like the aforementioned Y Tu Mama Tambien) but this part of the movie comes off a lot better than the seemingly thoughtless humor of something like Talladega Nights.
This talk of the underlying messages about coming of age may be misleading, all that is there, but this is a sex comedy first and a coming of age movie second. What’s really important here is the film’s comedy, and that works very well. Most of the humor derives from the witty banter between Seth and Evan. I could sit and listen to these guys go at it for hours. There are also a lot of crazy happenings, but they never delve too far into the bizarre, the film does mostly take place in the real world. Some of the behavior of the police officers begins to delve outside the film’s reality, but by this point the film is working so well the viewer doesn’t care.
One thing the film gets right is to cast actors who actually look like real teenagers. Three of the five actors in teenage parts are under twenty, this works a lot better than the twenty-something actors that are usually cast in this type of movies. The actors also look a lot more like real people than the cast of models that tend that fill up movies like American Pie. Jonah Hill has been in a lot of poor comedies recently like Accepted and Grandma’s Boy, but here he prove that he can work when he’s given better material. Michael Cera, who made his name on the cult sitcom Arrested Development, has to basically be a straight-man but also hold his own in a lot of funny conversations. Christopher Mintz-Plasse makes his screen debut as Fogell (a character who will forever be remembered as McLovin), creates a character who almost steals the show. Writer Seth Rogen and under-rated “Saturday Night Live” cast member Bill Hader play the two police officers in the film and both seem to have a great chemistry that keeps these two strange characters from seeming to absurd to work.
Judd Apatow’s troupe is by far the most successful group in film comedy today. This is the third straight success from them, and will easily be a classic of the teen sex-comedy genre. The comedy is hilarious, the story holds up, and the comic acting is great. The movie’s plot is familiar without being derivative. Here’s hoping Apatow’s winning streak keeps going. The movie isn’t for the easily offended, but those who don’t mind this kind of humor will find the movie Supergood (sorry I couldn’t resist.)