The good, the bad and the nerds

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

SU­PER­BAD Di­rected by Greg Mot­tola. Star­ring Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christo­pher Mintz-Plasse, Bill Hader, Seth Ro­gen, Emma Stone 16 cert, gen re­lease, 114 min NOT­ING the per­son­nel shared be­tween this ri­otous, if a bit over­long, high-school com­edy and the re­cent Knocked Up – screen­writer Seth Ro­gen ap­pears in both films; Judd Apa­tow, di­rec­tor of the ear­lier piece, pro­duced Su­per­bad – you could be for­given for view­ing the cur­rent re­lease as a kind of Knocked Up Lite. Af­ter all, whereas Apa­tow’s movie dealt with the grown-up is­sue of im­pend­ing par­ent­hood, Su­per­bad is just some silly youth film con­cern­ing booze, blow-jobs, bar fights and barf­ing. Right?

Not quite. Once again, Su­per­bad ex­hibits Team Apa­tow’s gift for im­pos­ing a greasy nat­u­ral­ism on ma­te­rial nor­mally dealt with in broad, brash strokes. But, un­like the border­line-misog­y­nis­tic Knocked Up, the new film brings gen­uine pathos to its treat­ment of male sex­ual dys­func­tion and, more sig­nif­i­cantly, al­lows its fe­male char­ac­ters to be some­thing other than tight-mouthed shrews.

Greg Mot­tola’s pocket Odyssey con­cerns the at­tempts of three young fel­lows – all, pre­vi­ously, dif­fer­ent sorts of losers – to se­cure a car­load of beer for the coolest party of the year. Seth (Jonah Hill), a large, sex­u­ally con­fused mo­tor-mouth, has not quite come to terms with the fact that Evan (Michael Cera), his more sen­si­tive best pal, is go­ing to a dif­fer­ent univer­sity af­ter grad­u­a­tion. Fo­gell (Christo­pher Mintz-Plasse), an ar­che­typal nerd who has se­cured a fake ID un­der the name “McLovin”, is dis­patched to pur­chase enough liquor to take the edge off the cri­sis and ease their pas­sage into the tan­ta­lis­ing shindig.

Along the way, Fo­gell en­coun­ters a pair of ir­re­spon­si­ble cops (who bear an un­canny re­sem­blance to Ed­die and Lou from The Simp­sons), Evan is forced by co­caine users to sing a sen­ti­men­tal bal­lad, and Seth has a messy en­counter while danc­ing with an in­sanely drunk young wo­man.

This sounds like the raw ma­te­rial for a stan­dard gross-out com­edy. But the per­for­mances are so touch­ing and the di­rec­tion so del­i­cate that the film never quite drifts into broad­ness. The in­ti­ma­tions that Seth’s feel­ings for Evan may have a car­nal el­e­ment in­volve some very ar­rest­ing vis­ual gags, but, ul­ti­mately, we feel more pity than dis­dain for the con­fused young men.

Su­per­bad is, in fact, a scrupu­lously moral piece of work. Bad things hap­pen, but, in the end, ev­ery­one does the right thing for the right rea­sons. If you liked Knocked Up you’ll love Su­per­bad. If you were un­easy with Knocked Up, you may like it all the more. DON­ALD CLARKE

Rites and wrongs of pas­sage: Evan and Seth mud­dle through life in Su­per­bad

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