Wednesday, August 08, 2007

 

Someone needs a trim

By Edward Copeland
In many ways, some movies need to be rated on separate scales: the number of laughs they produce and as a movie as a whole. Such is the case with Superbad, which like most recent productions coming out of the Judd Apatow comedy factory, contains a lot of big belly laughs. Unfortunately, great gags, even multitudes of them, aren't enough glue to hold together Superbad as a movie.


Apatow continues to build a repertory company of actors he loves to employ again and again from his TV days on Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, always adding a few new names to the troupe even as he hands the directing chores in Superbad over to Greg Mottola (The Daytrippers).

Look closely to see TV regulars or guest stars from the series such as Martin Starr, Carlo Gallo, Kevin Corrigan and David Krumholtz. Steve Bannos, Mr. Kowchevski on Freaks and Geeks, even gets to return to the profession of math teacher and Clement Blake, so memorable as the older party crasher in the "Beers and Weirs" episode of Freaks gets to play a similar role here.

The semiautobiographical screenplay was written by Seth Rogen and his longtime friend Evan Goldberg, so much so that the lead characters played by Jonah Hill and Michael Cera, even share their first names. In fact, Rogen and Goldberg began writing the script when they were teenagers. I wrote a novel when I was in high school, but it's locked safely in the attic. I'm sure it has some positive attributes, such as Superbad does, but not all things need to see the light of day or the screens of movie theaters.

Superbad follows a similar template to The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up by presenting truly vulgar comedy that almost makes you feel ashamed for laughing so hard at it and mixing it with a healthy dose of sweetness.

It also treads territory similar to films such as American Pie, though with a bit more success. In this case, the story follows a more traditional movie genre: teens trying to get laid. Seth (Hill) and Evan (Cera) are wrapping up their high school days and looking ahead to the separation college will force on them, since Evan has been accepted to Dartmouth and Seth will be stuck going to a state school.

Both are afraid of being separated, but neither is comfortable admitting it so instead they focus on final days of partying and girlchasing. That's basically the loosest of threads Superbad is hung on: A journey to procure liquor and get to a party where the would-be objects of their affections await.

Unfortunately, Superbad suffers from what Knocked Up suffered from and what The 40-Year-Old Virgin amazingly got away with: It's too damn long for this sort of comedy, so it inevitably sags at times. There really needed to be a strong editing hand to tighten the movie so the laughs were plentiful enough to make the whole thing work instead of ending up as a mixed bag.

Still, Superbad has two things that definitely are in its favor: Michael Cera and newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

Cera, so great as George-Michael on the much-missed TV show Arrested Development, proves that his skills as a straight man on that sitcom were no fluke. Cera shows signs of being able to give the best deadpan delivery of his generation (and probably several ahead of him).

Mintz-Plasse is a true find. Some stock characters such as the dumb blonde or the ubergeek have been used so often, it's still surprising when someone can put such fresh spins on the stereotypes to make them seem new again and that certainly is the case with Mintz-Plasse. While most of his scenes end up being with a pair of cops (Rogen, Bill Hader) that seem to belong to another movie, his energetic and delightful performance make it all worthwhile.

It's hard to make a clear call on Superbad: If you go expecting to laugh a lot, odds are you will. If you go hoping for a truly great comedy that also works as a film, you'll probably be disappointed.


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Comments:
I came of age the same time teenagers were getting mass slaughtered or laid (or both) on film, so there's a part of me that's nostalgic for teenage sex comedies. But this looks so bad, even from the red-band trailer I saw at their website. If I can see it for free, I'll go. Is the guy you liked the one who plays "McLovin?"

Luc Besson wrote The Fifth Element when he was 15, and it was a flaming pile of dogshit pie (but the costumes were fantastic). Allen Spencer created Sledge Hammer on TV when he was 15. That was too stupid to even be shit. So I fear anything created by 15-year olds, especially movies or babies. I guess I'll look for it on bootleg tomorrow.

I'm just kidding, MPAA!! (Aside: No I ain't.)
 
Yep, he's "McLovin"
 
I'm excited about Superbad. I do a website on Bill Hader, check it out

Bill Hader Online
http://www.billhaderonline.com
 
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