Review: 'Superbad' is pretty good

Should you stoop to discern the trash preceding out of the mouths of babes – well, actually teen-aged boys, you might pick up variances in coarseness and creativity, individual styles if you will.

For the most part, these reflections on intercourse and the associated anatomy consist of wishful thinking.

But occasionally, as in any art, there emerges an original voice whose nimble and gifted imagination actually unearths compelling material from an overgrazed pasture. At their best, these rare purveyors of prurient prose may even force the most prudish eavesdropper to force a tongue into their blushing cheek.

Such are the talents of Seth (Jonah Hill), whose foul-mouthed eloquence belies loneliness, insecurity, and quite frankly, the lack of any direct knowledge of the subject on which he so liberally riffs. He’s pudgy, of middlin’ intelligence, and not very attractive.

Seth’s horizons are as blank as his history. And unlike the Eveready Bunny, his drumbeat is beginning to slow—a retarding meter for a discordant song.

Movie studios revisit this social subset of society with a frequency only exceeded by the times their target audience checks in the mirror for signs of facial hair. No surprise, given the steady supply of graduates into frat-house humor, to say nothing of those who never emerge from this stage, pushing 40 and still unable to suppress a giggle at the sight of a horse’s pee-pee.

In “Superbad,” Seth, a senior in the waning days of the school year, stands to lose his small and tolerant audience. His best friend since grade school, Evan (Michael Cera), has been accepted to Dartmouth. Seth was turned down.

From Seth's perspective, he’s being deserted. The fact that Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the third member of their pack, also earns a spot at the Ivy League school, only pours gas on this simmering discontent.

The geekiest leg of the loser tripod, Fogell proves almost too nerdy for Evan and Seth. Due to his fake ID, however, he lands the assignment of procuring alcohol for the best and probably the only real party these guys have been invited to. Mintz-Plasse, who had never auditionedor been on a movie set, steals the show.

The heartrending co-dependency of Seth and Evan, the first adrift and desperate, the latter maturing as a student and human being, provides the redeeming framework holding together an unmitigated montage of lechery, excessive consumption, and of course what has become “Old Faithful”: the obligatory geyser of vomit.

This style of intertwining raunchy humor through rueful reflections on mating has become the hallmark of a de facto comedy factory, led by “Superbad” producer Judd Apatow, who exhibited a similar tone as writer for “Knocked Up” and “The 40 year Old Virgin,” both of which he also produced.

Seth Rogen (different Seth!), like Apatow, an alumnus of the late TV show “Freaks and Geeks” (a victim of good writing and bad rating) and another player on this noteworthy team, was also an active participant in those earlier movies. He variously served as executive producer, producer, director and actor, playing a cop in “Superbad.”

Add Hill, who also appeared in “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” and you have the kind of wonderful weirdness that springs from inbreeding.

Unfortunately, as in the other two films, the gags get stretched. In keeping with the mindset of four-year olds who're been taken by their own cleverness, the slightest encouragement gets misjudged as a ravenous call for encores. Cutting the length of these productions would eliminate that “enough already” aftertaste.

Success opens the tap on Hollywood's pipeline and Apatow¹s stream reportedly includes six productions between now and 2008 with four more in the scripting stage for 2009. And since contemporary men don't mature, the relationship between these creators and their audience could end up being an “until death do us part” arrangement.


Grade: B

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