SUPERBAD

R

-By Ethan Alter


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Judd Apatow confirms his status as Hollywood's new King of Comedy by following up his box-office hit Knocked Up with Superbad, the summer's second-funniest studio comedy. Of course, he can't claim direct authorship of this one; he's only on board as a producer, having passed the writing and directing chores off to other members of his sizeable entourage. Still, the film is clearly the product of the Apatow laugh factory. In addition to a big cast filled with familiar faces—hey, look, it's Martin Starr from “Freaks & Geeks” and Carla Gallo from “Undeclared”!—Superbad is powered by an explosively funny mixture of sweetness and raunchy humor. Since the movie was written by and is about teenage boys, the raunch quotient is noticeably higher here. This is the kind of comedy where teens casually toss around such terms of endearment as "dick mouth" and one of the main characters outlines his plan to become "the Iron Chef of pounding vag" when he heads off to college. The old adage holds true: Kids really do say the darndest things.

And thank God for that. At a time when most comedies (and action movies for that matter) are of the lame PG-13 variety, Superbad, like Knocked Up before it, provides a welcome blast of R-rated air. In that way, it's a direct descendent of '80s slob pictures like Porky's and Caddyshack, the movies that Apatow and his minions grew up on and which informed their comic worldview. What distinguishes the pupil from the master in this case is that an Apatow production hangs its myriad dirty jokes on a strong emotional hook. Hence, The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up are love stories first, raunchy comedies second, while Superbad is, at its core, a coming-of-age tale about two overgrown adolescents teetering on the perilous edge of adulthood. The overgrown adolescents in this case are Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera), named after the film's screenwriters Seth Rogen (who also co-stars) and Evan Goldberg. Lifelong friends turned producing partners, the duo started writing Superbad in high school and the movie possesses the same love for the outcasts of that dog-eat-dog world that marked Apatow’s TV series “Freaks & Geeks.”

Rogen and Goldberg's fictional counterparts are a pair of never-been-kissed dorks, who, in their own minds at least, are the coolest guys in school. With graduation looming, these pals are about to go their separate ways, Evan to Dartmouth and Seth to a college to be named later. Wanting to end their high-school career on a high note, they finagle an invitation to a house party thrown by Jules (Emma Stone), one of the more popular girls in school and Seth's secret crush. There's a catch, though: In order to secure the invitation, they promised to bring along alcohol. Enter their even dorkier friend Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who has gotten his hands on a fake ID and rechristened himself McLovin, a 25-year-old Hawaiian organ donor. It goes without saying that their best-laid plans go awry and the rest of the movie finds Seth, Evan and McLovin surviving all sorts of crazy adventures, including a run-in with two oddball cops (Rogen and “Saturday Night Live” player Bill Hader), on their way to the Promised Land, otherwise known as Jules' house.

Casting has always been key to the success of Apatow's films and television shows and once again he and his team have assembled a terrific ensemble, anchored by stellar turns from Hill and Cera. Both have completely different comic personas—Hill possesses the fearless bluster of a young John Belushi, while Cera is fast emerging as his generation's master of the deadpan gag—but they mesh perfectly. As good as both these young actors are, the real star of
Superbad is Mintz-Plasse, who was plucked out of obscurity and handed the role of a lifetime. The great thing about his performance is that it's obviously not an act—he is McLovin in the same way that Jason Mewes is Jay and Martin Starr is Bill Haverchuck. It's not an exaggeration to say that this character is guaranteed to join the company of such teen-movie icons as Stifler, Spicoli and Bluto Blutarsky and that's thanks entirely to Mintz-Plasse's natural geek charisma. Superbad is a marvelous late-summer surprise, a film that's small in scope but big on laughs and—believe it or not, dick mouths—heart.



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