Wednesday 30 January 2008

Superbad (2007)

Wednesday 30 January 2008
Director: Greg Mottola
Writers: Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen

Cast: Jonah Hill (Seth), Michael Cera (Evan), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Fogell/McLovin), Bill Hader (Officer Slater), Seth Rogen (Officer Michaels), Martha MacIsaac (Becca), Emma Stone (Jules), Aviva Farber (Nicola), Laura Seay (Shirley), Joe Lo Truglio (Francis), Kevin Corrigan (Mark), Dave Franco (Greg), Roger Iwata (Miroki), Marcella Lentz-Pope (Gaby), Scottie Gerbacia (Jesse), Stacy Edwards (Jane), David Krumholtz (Benji Austin) & Martin Starr (Michael Ragonese)

Two co-dependent high school seniors are forced to deal with separation anxiety after their plan for a booze-soaked party goes awry...

The problem with teen-comedies is that the protagonists are so young that they only revolve around four things kids care about: alcohol, sex, school, and friends. There's limited scope in the genre as a consequence, but everyone can identify with the awkwardness and embarrassments that pepper adolescence. It's just that... is there anything left to say in this genre?

Superbad hopes to draw more laughs from the teen-comedy well, with producer (Judd Apatow) and co-writer/co-star (Seth Rogen) both returning from rom-com Knocked Up. The film stars Jonah Hill as Seth and Michael Cera (Arrested Development) as Evan, two best friends facing their last summer together, because they've got into different schools. Like most US high school comedies, their "mission" is to get with two girls – ingratiating themselves into an end-of-year party by claiming they can provide alcohol with a fake ID.

Actually, it's their friend Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who has the fake ID: a Hawaiian driver's license that states his name as simply "McLovin". The story takes place over one evening, as the hapless trio face find themselves caught up in diversions as they try to purchase booze; most memorably when Fogell becomes the victim of a liquor store raid and is taken under the wing of two immature cops – Officers Slater (Bill Hader) and Michaels (Rogen).

Launched by Knocked Up's afterglow, a smattering of YouTube clips and an effective trailer, the one thing that sticks in your mind when watching Superbad is: I've seen all the funny bits. Yes, it's another teen-comedy that's blown its load in the marketing... meaning the full-length film is conspicuously bereft of fresh laughs. McLovin, the penis drawings, a car accident, the drunken head-butt... chances are, you've seen the film's signature laughs months in advance.

What's most disappointing is that (outside of a theatrical trailer's context), the funniest moments aren't even particularly hilarious without rat-a-tat editing. The script is mostly hamstrung by a tediously simple storyline, with only a few memorable lines and inventive ideas scattered around.

For the most part, Superbad is rescued by its three leads – particularly Cera's sweet and understated Evan, who's the perfect foil for motormouth Hill as Seth -- not to mention a fitting physical opposite. But it's Christopher Mintz-Plasse's character who has the more cult-appeal, purely because of his sweet-geek demeanour and "I am McLovin..." catchphrase.

The objects of each boy's affections are also well-cast; being attractive and sweet, not buxom fantasy figures you usually see in these films. Emma Stone is particularly good as Jules, Seth's red-haired home economics partner and party-thrower; while Martha MacIsaac is likable and cute as Evan's love-interest Becca.

Less successful are simpleton cops Michaels and Slater, who are neatly performed by Hader and Rogen, but their subplot with McLovin is too much of a dumb diversion. Indeed, Superbad's entire middle section is flabbier than Jonah Hill's stomach, with a lack of big laughs and silly distractions – like a crude period stain "gag".

It looks like Superbad has peaked prematurely and is slowly running out of steam half-way through. But then, the film jumps back on-track when Seth and Evan finally arrive at the party, and the combination of drink and sex ensures a steadier stream of embarrassments and cheeky scenes. I particularly liked Evan's twitchiness when Becca drunkenly seduces him in a bedroom.

With its vague "homosexual" undertone, with Seth and Evan more wrapped up in each other than anyone else, but slowly being forced to let each other go and pair-off with girls... Superbad belatedly ensures it's a worthwhile watch. It's just disappointingly low on belly laughs, bores you in the middle, and the script -- by the "real life" Seth (Rogen) and Evan (Goldberg) – doesn't really take full advantage of Hill and Cera's effortless chemistry; particularly the compelling Cera, who surely has a big career ahead of him.

Overall, Superbad is what it is: another teen comedy. There are a handful of funny moments, but nothing particularly dazzling. You're interest will undoubtedly be maintained by Cera, Hill and Mintz-Plasse, who all put in strong performances -- managing to hide the sputtering script's deficiencies.


Columbia Pictures
Budget: $20 million
114 minutes