Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2007 02:17 am
Super good Superbad
A rare teen comedy with heart and intelligence
Untitled Document I came late to the party where Judd Apatow’s cult TV show Freaks and Geeks is concerned. It was only after enjoying The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, both written and directed by Apatow, that I gave in to my wife’s nagging and gave Freaks and Geeks a shot. It was everything that she and the critics said it was — a smart, hilarious, and at times heartbreaking look at the high-school experience of one group of kids during the ’80s. Although Apatow is only listed as a producer of the new comedy Superbad, it has his fingerprints all over it. Like Freaks and Geeks, it effectively shifts tone throughout, plunging us into the most awkward of situations, then shifting gears to deliver uproarious laughs while delivering sincere messages on friendship, loyalty, and acceptance. Unlike the American Pie movies, this film has a degree of heart and intelligence that’s all too rare in teen comedies. Seth, Evan, and Fogell (Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, respectively) are three high-school outcasts who, in their senior year, are desperate to break free from the stigma of being nerds. Seth suffers from a massive insecurity complex, Evan’s obesity keeps him on the outside looking in where the high-school social hierarchy is concerned, and timid Fogell — well, let’s just say he operates on a different wavelength. The plot is simple: Seth and Evan have been invited to a party by the elusive and beautiful Jules (Emma Stone) but must score some alcohol to gain admission. Though this would seem an impossible task for them to complete, the fact that Fogell has a fake ID gives them a glimmer of hope, but over the course of one very long night things go from bad to worse as the boys find themselves separated — Fogell’s keeping company with two inept cops (Seth Rogen and Bill Hader), and Seth and Evan wind up at another party that has a very bad vibe. Some gags fall flat, but most of them are right on the mark, capturing that high-school angst in which insecurity rules and doubt undercuts your every thought and action. Physical comedy butts up against sordid scenes of sexual awkwardness and fear, and nearly all of it is executed with perfect timing. Although Fogell’s misadventures with the two cops become a bit repetitious, Mintz-Plasse steals nearly every scene he’s in. There’s a sense of exuberance to the actor’s performance that’s obvious and infectious and helps the film over some rough patches. Although the film does run too long, this can be forgiven, because director Greg Mottola is trying to develop solid relationships among the characters. In the end, their believable bond of friendship and loyalty, not the gags and laughs, is what endures.