Youâd imagine that most 14-year-old boys feel the same way about sex comedies as they do about each of their battled-for baby steps toward the big deed itselfâit doesnât matter if itâs any good, the point is that theyâre getting some. About a decade ago, though, budding horndogs Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg allegedly became fed up with the subpar antics of their cinematic counterparts. Fuck this noise, they thought. We can do better.
And today you have Superbad, a movie to be filed under âribald,â whose script started out as a seed in two boysâ dirty minds. Of course, the final product has gone through polishings and fleshings-out since its first wobbly-legged drafts, informed by the writersâ subsequent experience (Goldberg writing scripts for Da Ali G Show; Rogen starring in such Judd Apatow productions as The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up) and maturity (though a certain period joke might have been in the original). If youâre not familiar with the R-comedy magic previously created by King Apatow and his court, Superbad sounds August-unexceptional: Two high-school seniors, thus far none too popular with the ladies, try to score some alcohol for a hottieâs party. Theyâve been accepted to different colleges, so the best friends are thinking itâs gonna be their last big blowout. The ultimate goal? Duh: to get laid.
But audiences whoâve laughed their asses off at Rogenâs other work will be pleased to know that the Greg Mottolandirected Superbad is not just another teen movie. At 25, Rogen wisely deemed himself too old to starâeven though he and Goldberg named the characters after themselvesâbut found a worthy surrogate in Jonah Hill, whose bawdy, loud-mouthed, obnoxious-if-he-werenât-so-funny turn as Seth is the â00s Bluto Blutarsky. Michael Cera is the straight man as Sethâs awkward friend Evan, an extension of Ceraâs awkward George-Michael Bluth from the celebrated but canceled TV series Arrested Development.
Seth and Evan spend most of their time moaning about their lack of actionâEvan pines over one particular sweetheart, Becca (Martha MacIsaac), while Seth is happy to fixate on girls in general, especially ones who âlook like they can take a dick.â So when the sexy Jules (Emma Stone) improbably invites Seth to her party, heâs determined to become the booze-bringing life of it. Enter Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), whoâs so nerdy that even Seth considers him âthe fucking anti-poon.â But, heâs got a fake ID, and even though itâs a terrible one (stating that Fogell is actually the one-named, 25-year-old Hawaii resident âMcLovinâ), itâll have to do. Unsurprisingly, it doesnât.
Superbad tosses its hopeless antiheroes into some fantastically ridiculous situations as they make their way to said party, including Fogellâs adventures with a couple of cops (Rogen and Saturday Night Liveâs Bill Hader) and Sethâs and Evanâs rather more disturbing run-in with a potential pedophile (âSo, you guys on MySpace?â) and his psychotic but alcohol-holding friends. Together, the main characters riff on typical Apatow topicsâthe production values of porn, say, or how unfair it is that women can show off their boobs but guys have to hide their boners. The dialogue is at times overwhelmingly hyperactive, though Hillâs wild-eyed and -haired mania is more difficult to settle in to than Ceraâs dry, soft-spoken Bob Newhartnisms. As with any solid teen comedy, Superbad isnât just about getting loaded and lucky, with the duoâs friendship and impending separationâbecause of school and, God willing, just maybe because of girlfriendsâanchoring the story. The filmmakers donât always handle the materialâs tonal transitions smoothly, especially the friendsâ abrupt if inevitable blowup. But then they offer yet another inspired dick jokeâand as any 14-year-old will tell you, sometimes thatâs what really counts.
Rocket Science Directed by Jeffrey Blitz
To anyone thinking about writing, directing, starring in, or providing catering for a movie: Please, enough with Napoleon Dynamite Syndrome already. Nerd stories may have been around since the birth of nerds, but thereâs a difference between focusing on the unpopularâas in Superbadâand âcelebratingâ the just plain weird. Rocket Science, unsurprisingly a Sundance favorite, falls into the latter category, this time propping up a high school stutterer and his odd family and friends for evisceration/good fun.
To his credit, first-time feature writer-director Jeffrey Blitz (Spellbound) doesnât make his central character, Hal Hefner (what an ironic name!), a colorful idiot. (Donât worry, though, there are plenty of those here anyway.) Instead, Hal (Reece Daniel Thompson) is a smart if shy New Jersey kid with a speech impediment, one so bad that he practices his lunch order on the bus ride to school. His parents have just split upâloudly and unexpectedlyâand his brother, Earl (Vincent Piazza), is a bullying thief. Hal isnât totally friendless, though: Thereâs his neighbor and classmate, Heston (Aaron Yoo), an Asian who does nothing but smilingly, creepily leer at whateverâs going on and, itâs implied, is sexually confused. (His dad, âJudge Pete,â isnât, however, as heâs banging Halâs mom.) And eventually thereâs Lewis (Josh Kay), an 11-year-old who invites Hal in for 7-Up after questioning Halâs right to ride his bike in front of Lewisâ house. (Lewisâ parents areâyouâll love thisâalways shown playing âBlister in the Sunâ on the cello and piano as part of their marital therapy.)
The reason Hal began lurking on Lewisâ street to begin with is Ginny (Anna Kendrick), a cute but ruthless senior whoâs a star on the debate team. Ginny used to be paired with another sharp talker, the slick, good-looking Ben (Nicholas DâAgosto). On the night of an important debate, howeverâthe very night Halâs and Earlâs father walks out!âBen falls silent in the middle of his argument and drops out of school. And so Ginny recruits Hal to replace Ben, impolitely reasoning that âdeformed people are the bestâmaybe because they have a deep reserve of anger.â
Ginnyâs strategy continually and painfully proves to be a bad idea, yet she persists in trying to mold Halâand he, naturally in love, improbably continues to let her despite his multiple failures. It turns out that some sort of scheme is involved, but it doesnât make much sense. Then again, nothing besides Halâs stutter and the deep hurt it causes him feels real here. Thompson will make you acheâthough not over Halâs alleged crush on the baby-faced beeyatch, who, even if her debate skills are impressive, is not for one moment likable. But Thompson makes his characterâs emotional wounds palpable as he tries to speak the words so clearly being bullhorned inside his head. Blitz is trying to communicate worthy messages, predominantly about finding oneâs own voice and taking chances. But theyâre so bogged down in preciousness that you canât see the intentions beneath the quirks.