Thursday, December 20, 2007

Movie Log: Superbad

This might be a movie that it's best to see with a large (and possibly half-drunk) audience; I watched it at home with The Wife and we found the main characters more and more annoying as the movie went on. Superbad does have its good points, and it's a solid comedy, but it's not as wonderful as some of the reviews I've seem would tend to indicate.

Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) aren't that bad to begin with, but they have a lot of screen time, and Seth's abrasive assholishness and Ethan's world-class passive-aggressive streak only get more and more grating the more time the movie spends with them. Particularly Seth. There have been plenty of movies about teenage boys wanting to get laid, but the trick lies in making the viewer sympathize with them -- we have to want them to get laid. By the midpoint of Superbad, I was still on the fence about Evan, but I was adamant that Seth should die a virgin at the age of a hundred and seven.

Luckily, there's Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who -- along with a couple of cops played by Bill Hader and Seth Rogen -- saves the movie. Fogell is The Geek, hallowed in film and TV. And, in similar time-honored fashion, he's the one to get a fake ID and set off to buy booze for a party (since Seth assumes -- and I agree with him -- that the only way to get a sane human female to sleep with him would be if she were on the verge of alcohol poisoning). Fogell, for his own deranged reasons, gets that ID in the name of "McLovin," and that's where Superbad really takes off.

My own biased opinion is that teen comedies work best when they're the least plausible -- cops who go drinking with a 17-year-old, "I can't believe I gave my panties to a geek," filling a teacher's house with popcorn via an orbital laser. If you do a movie about most high school kid's real lives, you're not going to have a comedy; it'll be some manner of drama, from melo- to kitchen sink. So the closer a comedy tries to get to "real," the less funny it gets. Superbad is a great example for my theory, since Seth and Evan are rarely funny and "McLovin" is always funny.

Superbad is a bit too long, and a bit too full of itself, and spends too much time on the progressively-less-likable main characters. But it does have a lot of good humor in it. And the female characters seem like they could have actually been real human beings (and not simply lust objects) if they had been given more than two minutes of screen time each. On the other hand, I don't see Superbad as a movie for female human beings in the first place -- it's close to being a two-hour long dick joke -- so the fact that the girls aren't simply pneumatic cheerleader sex-dolls is a major point in its favor. All in all, Superbad is an "Eh" movie. (Especially the point where the filmmakers realize that they're ninety minutes in and they haven't set up any tension, so some characters act very differently for a while to drive the plot in the right direction.) It's worth seeing, but not worth paying for -- I'm glad I didn't see it in the theater.

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