Judge Ryan Keefer got all kinds of strange looks when he asked for the McLovin Value Meal for lunch the other day.
Our review of Superbad: Unrated Two-Disc Special Edition, published December 4th, 2007, is also available.
"What kind of a stupid name is that Fogell? What are you trying to be, an Irish R&B singer?"
The summer of 2007 will be remembered as the summer of Judd Apatow. As a director, his film Knocked Up won over the critics while making almost $150 million. As a producer, his considerably raunchier collaboration with Knocked Up star Seth Rogen was Superbad, which raked in over $120 million, placing both films in the top 15 highest grossing films of the year. So now that all is said and done and it's on video, is this two-disc Blu-ray set Superbad?
Facts of the Case
Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Da Ali G Show) co-wrote the film which Greg Mottola (Undeclared) directed. In this little ditty, Seth (Jonah Hill, The 40 Year Old Virgin) and Evan (Michael Cera, Arrested Development) are best friends in their last two weeks of high school, before their paths separate to different colleges. Seth's friend Jules (Emma Stone, Drive) invites him and Evan to a party, which is perfect because Seth is trying to hook up with her, while Evan is trying to get with a girl named Becca (Martha MacIsaac, Ice Princess), and both guys are trying to lose their virginity in the process before college. With the help of their friend Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a fake ID and a couple of very clingy and slightly unprofessional policemen, the night proves to be far more memorable than anyone could have expected.
The surprising thing about Superbad is when the guys have an opportunity to finally be in the situation they want to be in, even after everything that got them to the point, they come across a little bit emo when it comes to the actual event. Simply put, the circumstances they find themselves in aren't to their satisfaction, or maybe they could be better. So perhaps they might not want to do the dirty deed, and all the talk about it might wait until another time. In fact, the friendship between Seth and Evan seems to be like a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. It's teased about a little bit during the film, but the last five minutes of the film seem to have that eerie awkwardness of a one night stand where the guy feels like he has to leave. For me, the very last scene is reminiscent of the diner scene with Ben and Alison in Knocked Up. It's an oddly comic thing to see at first, but it's the right choice to make.
Jumping back to the film itself, Superbad follows in the vein of films like Porky's, American Pie and a score of similar films where guys have to "score" or else they'll not be guys anymore, or lose the war on terror. And it's easy to make that assumption when you watch it, however this film is a change of pace with respect to how the quest is portrayed, because while there is nudity in spades in some of the other films, any nudity in Superbad excludes the principal cast, because Rogen and Goldberg tend to focus on the events leading up to the act, rather than the act itself. This is supported by Rogen and Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live) who appear as county police and take Fogell around town to do things that he probably wouldn't have been exposed to otherwise, while the cops try to have one last gasp at fun themselves before getting into the serious vein of life, much like Seth and Evan.
With proven comic talents like Hader and Rogen prevalent in the film, the fact that the kids are able to roll with the comic punches in the film says something. Sure, Hill is the veteran of the bunch at 23, but Cera is only 19 and with his experiences on Arrested Development, he's becoming more and more the valuable comic talent who throws in a hilarious comment or two under his breath, while playing an effective straight man for someone else to bounce jokes off of. Throw in the fact that Stone is in her first feature role, and Mintz-Plasse is in his first role, period, and it's remarkable to see how these kids hold their own.
Sony usually brings quality transfers with the AVC MPEG-4 codec, and this one is another quality work on Blu-ray. Flesh tones are natural, colors are fairly vivid without too much bleeding, and the film focuses on clarity without seeing too much depth in the background. It's solid. There's a choice of TrueHD and PCM soundtracks, and in doing some side by side comparisons to each with the opening song of the film, the PCM seems to sport a little more body in the low end. Legendary bassist Bootsy Collins and his band contribute the score and it sounds crisp (you can hear a slight reverb on the bass strings in the beginning). Dialogue sounds pretty strong in the center channel, with the occasional surround effect, making this quietly immersive.
As far as the bonus material goes, Joe Six Pack has a choice of three on standard definition; the rated version, an unrated version which is five minutes longer and includes some small additions, but nothing too noticeable, and an unrated version that includes a second disc of fun and goodness. For those of you who are going to get the Blu-ray version, you're going to get the unrated two-disc version. On the first disc, a small Blu-ray exclusive is the "Superbad Supermeter," which keeps a running tally of vulgarities, sexual words and phrases, and the number of times people say "McLovin" (if you've seen the commercials, you'll know the background behind the joke). The first two categories were easily in the triple digits, for what it's worth. Then you've got a commentary with Apatow, Mottola, Rogen, Goldberg, Hill, Cera and Mintz-Plasse, recorded together and in two separate locations. Apatow brought his 9-year-old daughter, much to Hill's chagrin, and he eventually chases the pair from the studio so they can swear and curse up a storm. However this track is lacking on the informational side, which is probably understandable, but there are several discussions about Mintz-Plasse and the way to shoot some of his scenes, since he was a minor during filming. And aside from that, and hearing Rogen confess to auditioning for the Band of Brothers miniseries ("Colin Hanks was in it"), that's all you'll really gain from this—it's more of a good time than anything. Six deleted and extended sequences follow, running about 10 minutes, and aside from a scene where Seth and Evan try to get alcohol from Evan's house, along with an Asian boy at the party doing a dead-on Christopher Walken impression, most of these scenes can be skipped. You've got a gag reel after that, followed by some alternate lines done by Hill during shooting, then you have a scene from an upcoming Rogen/Apatow film called Pineapple Express. It features Rogen and James Franco (Knocked Up) talking about, and then smoking some pot, for four minutes, and is somewhat tedious. An extended cop car conversation with Hader and Rogen is next.
Switching over to the second disc, there's a series of "Cop Car Confessions" where Hader and Rogen in character are taking various members of the Apatow Stock Company to jail for fictional crimes. So Jane Lynch (The 40 Year Old Virgin), Craig Robinson (The Office) and others, including Apatow, each get about three or four minutes to ad lib with Hader and Rogen. Some of the sequences are pretty bland, though the ones with Lynch, Robinson and Ian Roberts (Anchorman), who plays a gentle priest who is part of a primal underground gang a la Fight Club, are particularly noteworthy and funny. The standard making of featurette is next, lasting about 15 minutes and is basically a handheld camera pointed at the cast and crew at various points of the principal photography. The "Vag-tastic Voyage" is the full trailer of the web site the boys look at early on in the film, and then a table read from 2002 is included, with Rogen reading the role of Seth, while it looks like Jason Segel might be reading Evan. But the film wasn't made then, it was made in 2006, so an updated table read with the cast in the film is next, with three scenes and running over 20 minutes long. There's even audition footage of Hill, Cera and Mintz-Plasse.
Yet there's more! Cera includes three voicemails from Hill that were left before and during the production, and while the inclusion is interesting, it's really nothing more than Hill coming on to Cera using cellular technology. "Snakes on Jonah" is a Steve Irwin-ish character, placing bugs, reptiles and other things on the bug-shy Hill for five minutes, with a look at the opening dancing sequences next. Some "TV Safe Lines" Hill is forced to do are next, along with a goof featurette titled "Everyone Hates Michael Cera." Cera is interviewed on set, oblivious to the cold shoulder his cast mates and crew members are giving him. Some on-set video diaries with the cast and crew follow, and this piece serves as a supplement to the making of the film, where everyone gets interviewed and shares their thoughts about what's going on. Mintz-Plasse does get a little bit teary at the end, which is cute to see, but most of the piece is full of smiles. A look at the music follows with interviews from Bootsy and the band, as they discuss how they got to the film and discuss some career details briefly. The last extra on this loaded disc is a meltdown that Hill had during the press junket. Remind me never to ask him what it means to be "superbad."
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The friendship with Seth and Evan does have its moments, as I mentioned earlier, however it tends to be slightly erratic and ineffective in some sequences. There's the obligatory sequences where Seth tends to bristle, perhaps somehow being jealous that Evan is moving on to Dartmouth while Seth flounders at a local college. And while some of the sequences in the party tend to reach a little too hard as well, they help paint the overall picture of reliance and dependency on one another.
Mark my words, Superbad is going to be one of those films that you will watch at first and discount, but it will grow on you as you get more viewings under your belt. If you're a guy, it's the celluloid equivalent of macaroni and cheese, with less cheap humor and more actual laugh out loud moments. The extras are somewhat erratic, but if you're fan of the film, go for the two disc, and if you're a Blu-ray buyer, while it's not reference material, you at least get the most bang for your buck.
Green laundry detergent-infused beer and Gold Slick vodka aside, a hearty not guilty goes out to the boys.
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