Sony // 2007 // 118 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Erich Asperschlager // December 4th, 2007
"It's up to you, Fogel. This guy's either gonna think: 'Here's another kid with a fake ID,' or they'll think: 'Here's McLovin...the 25-year-old Hawaiian organ donor.'"
The Judd Apatow comedy empire continues to grow (insert sex joke here) with Superbad, written by Freaks and Geeks alum Seth Rogen and childhood friend Evan Goldberg.
Considering Superbad's been around since Rogen and Goldberg started writing it at the apparently not-so-tender age of 13, it's kind of amazing the movie ever got made. The project got its first shot at life while Rogen and Apatow (who ultimately produced the film) were working on the short-lived Fox comedy Undeclared with director Greg Mottola. An early table read is included with the bonus features on Disc Two -- with Rogen as Seth, Jason Segel as Evan, and the oh-so-perfect Martin Starr (who has a brief cameo in the film) as Fogel.
For fans of shock and gross-out humor, Superbad goes into some shockingly gross territory. Those less inclined to laugh at lewd hand gestures and what amounts to a master's class in coital terminology may tire of wading through obscenities to get to the underlying buddy story. Either way, you can't say you weren't warned.
Superbad: Unrated Two-Disc Special Edition doesn't clean it up, at any rate.
Inseparable best friends Seth (Jonah Hill, Knocked Up) and Evan (Michael Cera, Veronica Mars) are nearing high-school graduation, and facing the prospect of not only going to different colleges, but going there as virgins. A chance Home Ec meeting presents Seth with what seems to be the perfect opportunity to score: his crush, a popular girl named Jules (Emma Stone, Drive), is throwing a party and she wants him to bring the alcohol. Problem is, the party's that night, and the closest either he or Evan are to procuring booze is the recently acquired fake ID belonging to nerdy hanger-on Fogel (first-time actor Chris Mintz-Plasse) -- an ID which says he's 25, from Hawaii, and named simply "McLovin."
Fogel's trip to the liquor store is interrupted by a robbery that summons a pair of inept cops (Seth Rogen, The 40 Year Old Virgin, and Bill Hader, Hot Rod). Impressed by their new best friend "McLovin," they take him along for an evening spent mooching beer, running red lights, shooting guns, and giving him wildly inappropriate sex advice.
Stymied by the liquor store hold-up, Seth pushes Evan -- who's eager to meet up with his "girl who's a friend" Becca (Martha MacIsaac, Ice Princess) -- to increasingly extreme lengths to nab some booze and get to Jules's party before it's too late.
There's a lot to like about Superbad. In this renaissance of raunchy sex comedies, it stands out, buoyed in part by its connection to critical darling Judd Apatow.
Written by Rogen and Goldberg, the story still fits the Apatow "formula" of explicit dialogue mixed with believable relationships. Best friends since age eight, Seth and Evan are terrified at the thought of being torn apart by college. Of course, they don't talk as much about that as they do losing their virginity in preparation for sex at a college level. Seth, in particular, takes this assumed responsibility with a seriousness usually reserved for someone trying to pass the bar.
Michael Cera and Jonah Hill are perfectly and hilariously cast as the central characters. Whether frolicking with his male Home Ec partner or singing The Guess Who's "These Eyes" to a room full of cokeheads, no one does "awkward teen" like Cera (for further proof, see Arrested Development). Sure, followers of Cera's career have seen his nervous naiveté before, but that doesn't make it any less funny (I'd almost recommend this movie based solely on his performance). As the frazzled yin to Cera's blank-stared yang, Jonah Hill brings a foul-mouthed intensity to the film, playing Seth, a guy who seems to say just about everything that pops into his hormone-soaked teenage mind.
They get a run for their screen-time money from veteran players Rogen and Hader -- as cops stuck in their own kind of arrested development -- and Mintz-Plasse, whose hilarious nerdy non-acting will hopefully make a return in future Apatow projects. I doubt even Judd can deny the mighty force that is "McLovin."
The supporting cast does a uniformly good job, though my personal favorite cameo is by Joe Lo Truglia (former member of The State) as the parolee who tries to make up for hitting Seth with his car by taking the boys to a party where they can get some booze. From his wild eyes to the vague hints at what may or may not be the crime that got him arrested, it's the kind of performance that only increases my longing for the promised State complete series box set.
I don't think I can emphasize enough how super-raunchy Superbad is. Though you'd have to create the world's filthiest pie chart to accurately compare it with The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, it's got more than its fair share of foul-mouthedness, and sequences that range from explicit (the penis-drawing montage) to just plain gross (Evan's dance partner "mishap"...shudder). It's the kind of movie that reminds you that if teenagers talked in films the way they do in real life, no one under the age of 21 would be allowed in movie theaters. (I'm already budgeting in extra mouth-washing soap for my future kids.)
What keeps Superbad out of the realm of mindless smut is the realistic portrayal of the central best-friendship. Everyone can relate to losing, or being afraid of losing, someone close to them. To read Seth and Evan's deep commitment to each other as "gay" is probably too simplistic (despite young Seth's penchant for drawing cartoon phalluses), but their love is real -- real enough to fuel their booze quest, and real enough to mask what that quest really represents. They don't quite learn the mature life lessons Steve Carell and Seth Rogen do in Virgin or Knocked Up, but I can't think of too many high-schoolers who would.
The video has a definite yellowish cast to it. As with the "film scratches" over the opening titles, this appears to be on purpose. The whole film has a throwback '70s vibe, and the heightened yellow fits the style. My only knock against the decision is that it makes the film's blacks appear as more of a dark gray. There's also noticeable edge enhancement that may or may not be the result of the movie having been shot on video instead of film. Either way, it's a little annoying.
The 5.1 surround is a great showcase for the film's distinctive funk soundtrack -- recorded by Bootsy Collins and his band. Along with a smattering of classic rock songs, it's the perfect retro representation of nervous boys trying to psych themselves up for sex. It's just too bad the surround mix doesn't have a whole lot to do once the music dies down.
For many, the set's main draw will be the extra unrated material, which isn't all that different from what made the theatrical cut. It adds about four additional minutes, and consists mostly of taking vulgar scenes and making them a little more vulgar.
The bonus features seem to be of the "kitchen sink" variety, with a second disc bursting with extras that, while hardly essential, capture the adolescent spirit of the film. A lot of the featurettes make me think the cast just sat around in between takes saying, "I just had the craziest !@%$#%@ idea for the DVD!" The extras break down into several categories: general goofing around (the on-set diaries, "Snakes on Jonah," the collection of random voice mail messages Hill left on Cera's phone); stuff that didn't make it in the movie (deleted scenes, alternate dialogue, gag reel); production material (a "making of," table read footage, "dancing title sequence," the Bootsy Collins band profile, auditions); and comedy sketches ("Cop Car Confessions," Jonah's "Press Junket Meltdown," and the very funny "Everybody Hates Michael Cera").
The most enjoyable of all the extras is the commentary on Disc One, with just about all the guys except Bill Hader. It's a profanity-laced mixture of reminiscing, trivia, and going off track. It gets a little weird, too, thanks to the presence of Judd Apatow's 9-year-old daughter at the New York half of the recording session. Jonah (who's in studio with them) does a valiant job of curbing his language until about halfway through the movie, when he gives up and chews Apatow out for "Bring your Daughter to Work Day," at which point Judd storms out -- and as far as I can tell, it really happened! After that, the verbal gloves come off and the discussion actually manages to be way more vulgar than the film. Though there's little in the way of valuable information, you do learn that the most outrageous sequences in the film (yes, even that one) really happened. You also learn that while no one you knew in high school may have been capable of spewing forth obscenities like the characters in the film, the guys who made Superbad did -- and it was them.
The problem with Superbad is that it has a higher ratio of vulgarity to heart than the Apatow-helmed The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up (my ought-seven pick for "comedy of the year"). Maybe it's too much to expect the same level of self-reflection from teenage boys, but what made Virgin and Knocked Up so compelling was that they embraced the kind of family values they appeared at first glance to reject.
In Superbad, the life-or-death quest for graduation party sex isn't a foil, it's compensation for two friends being forced apart by college. The story of love and friendship is no less sincere than the earlier films; it's just a little harder to see until the final half-hour of the movie.
While I appreciate the amount of work and creativity that went into all the male genitalia cartoons -- what with all the costumes and props and such -- making the DVD menu art a never-ending stream of male member pics (lets call them doodles of "doodles") kinda put me off. Though funny in the context of the movie, as menu art (unless you're a fan), it's a bit much.
The blessing and the curse of Superbad is that it will forever be compared to much better Judd Apatow movies. That's too bad, because, while it's not as funny or moving as Knocked Up, it's got plenty of laughs, touching authenticity, a killer soundtrack, and a standout cast (Have I mentioned I love Michael Cera?).
Though this set falls down in a few areas (uneven extras, minor image problems), the film is a solid enough experience to recommend to anyone who likes comedies that put the "hard" in "hard-R" -- and doesn't mind descriptions of sex that would make Dr. Ruth's gynecologist blush.
All aboard the McLove train! Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 118 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Deleted and Extended Scenes
* Gag Reel
* "Cop Car Confessions"
* "The Making of Superbad"
* Table Read
* "The Vag-Tastic Voyage"
* Commentary With Filmmakers and Cast
* Cast Audition Footage
* "Press Junket Meltdown"
* "The Music of Superbad"
* "Everyone Hates Michael Cera: The Unfortunate True Story"
* "On-Set Diaries"
* "Michael's Voicemails From Jonah"
* "Snakes on Jonah"
* "Dancing Title Sequence"
* "TV Safe Lines"
* "Pineapple Express: Exclusive First Look"
* Official Site
* Superbad [Blu-ray] Review