'Superbad': Apatow Gang Gets Funny With the Funky

Maui Time | August 12, 2007
That venerable genre, the teen sex comedy, gets a hot shot of warm lovin' in director Greg Mottola's (The Daytrippers) rendering of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's irreverent script. Nostalgia for a funky white bread '70s era yet to arrive, permeates the groovy vibe inhabited by geeky high school seniors Evan (Michael Cera), Seth (Jonah Hill) and Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Intent on mastering their sex skills, i.e. losing their virginity, before heading off to college, the three friends luck into an invitation to a girl-loaded party where they are sure they can score. Entrusted by their female hosts to bring a goodly supply of alcoholic beverages to the fiesta, the guys suffer pratfalls and numerous indignities before taking their tenuous first steps toward intimacy with the fairer sex.

Produced by Judd Apatow's company, Superbad is a continuation of the humorous zeal Apatow registered with Knocked Up. Here, retro touches of visual style and slick funk music combine with fresh delivery of unabashed amusement to create a heady cocktail of randomly explosive comedy. Lyle Workman's impressive soul/funk soundtrack features funk icons Catfish Collins, Bernie Worrell and Bootsie Collins scoring the action with soul stirring grooves.

When Seth calls his friend Fogell "the anti-poon," the line thoroughly sets up the likable dweeb for a twisting single night's journey that will necessarily involve riding in the back of a police car with a couple of young lunatic cops on a mission to bend Fogell's mind. High school cutie Jules (Emma Stone) reveals her improbable fondness for the potty-mouthed Seth when she invites him to her party and entrusts him with a hundred dollars to buy booze. But first the boys must take advantage of Fogell's newly minted fake ID, on which he recasts himself as a 25 year-old Honolulu swinger with the unlikely single name of "McLovin." Fogell is on the verge of leaving the liquor store with the goods when a robber clobbers him in the head and takes off. The cops arrive, and police officer Slater (Bill Hader) and officer Michaels (Seth Rogen) feign delight at Fogell's moniker before offering to take him and his bags of alcohol home, albeit with a few detours for things like shooting up stop signs and arresting a deranged bum.

The cops play an important subversive thematic role by off-handedly showing where immaturity in adult men can lead. Their lack of social responsibility emphatically equates them as careless rivals to the stern minded militzia that intimidate citizens. As the kindhearted de facto chaperones for the movie, they also act as a hands-on Greek chorus for the boys' right to passage.

A sense of twitchy suspense heightens the laughs as Seth and Evan crash a drugged out party of scary hippies. Hoping to lift a few bottles to take to their own party, the duo get a preview of where the "party lifestyle" could go. Seth gets hit the hardest when he realizes that not only has he been dancing with the jealous host's drunk girlfriend, but that she has left evidence of her menstrual cycle on his leg. The scene takes on a giddy Jackass brand of comedy that Seth's character prolongs when he smuggles out a bright red detergent container filled with stolen beer. The comic inventions at play are so beyond the pale, and yet so within the realm of teenage possibility, that we follow tangible imaginary emotional arcs of pubescent experience. This is fun stuff.

Superbad soars via pitch-perfect performances by Jonah Hill, Michael Cera (television's Arrested Development) and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Each boy finally achieves an intimate moment with a girl who individually represents a sexually opposite version of imperfection and horniness. Evan, Seth and Fogell sustain embarrassing lessons as they step across varying thresholds of passion. In the sobering aftermath, they stumble toward a new realm of friendship and maturity; one distanced from their familiar co-dependency on one another, but not from their obsessions with genitalia.

Rated R, 112 mins. (A-)

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