The good, the bad and the nerds
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