We are getting some good hardcore laughs this summer. First, Judd Apatow directed Knocked Up with Seth Rogen, and now we get another gem from the Apatow creative factory in the teen comedy Superbad. Trashy, mundane, and oh-so-funny, this one finds an instant place next to the likes of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Risky Business and Dazed and Confused.
The film is written by Rogen and produced by Apatow, with Greg Mottola directing. Rogen began writing the script for kicks with his buddy Evan Goldberg when he was 13 years old. I’m sure he’s tweaked it a little since then, but there’s no doubt that Rogen knows what teens, especially angry sarcastic teens, talk like.
Jonah Hill and Michael Cera star as Seth and Evan (nice touch with the names), two high school virgins looking to get some before they go their separate ways to different colleges. Seth is the vulgar, bullish loudmouth, a ferocious ball of pent-up frustration who has endured years of rejection and ribbing at the hands of his callous classmates. Evan is the quiet, shy one who appreciates Jonah’s caustic attitude and calls him his best friend.
Then, of course, there is mega-nerd McLovin, or rather Fogell, played by newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse. “McLovin” is the name Fogell has chosen for his fake ID, much to the chagrin of Seth and Evan, who are depending on Fogell to get a bunch of alcohol for the big party they’ve been invited to. The saga of McLovin begins in full when Fogell gets punched in the head during a liquor store robbery, and winds up on a wild ride with the two funniest cops I’ve ever seen in a movie, played by Bill Hader and Rogen.
Hill is proving himself to be one of the Apatow Universe’s most valuable players. From his single moment in the Ebay store during The 40-Year-Old Virgin, to his hospital breakdown in Knocked Up, to his brilliant turn here as Seth, Hill is perfection from the moment he opens his mouth in this movie. I especially liked his Home Economics rant and his summation of a preferred porn site in the film’s opening moments.
You could call Cera the straight man in this film, but that would almost be an insult. Yes, he’s the quiet counterpart to Hill’s ranting, but his pensive mannerisms and under-the-breath remarks are equally funny. Cera has a classic drunken-sex scene in this film that establishes him as a comic actor to be reckoned with. As he proved with Arrested Development as the confused George Michael, Cera knows how to play a frustrated and intelligent teen.
And then, there’s McLovin, a character that will become infamous in film lore. What makes Superbad so good is that it’s two great movies in one. The McLovin subplot could stand on its own. The beauty is that it is very funny—as funny as the tribulations of Seth and Evan—so when the picture visits both subplots, the laughs don’t diminish.
The Rogen and Hader characters almost feel like what Seth and Evan would become if they grew up and entered the police force. Two angry nerds with guns, tearing the town up and ignoring distress calls. Hader is a great new player on Saturday Night Live (love his Vincent Price sketches), and he seems comfortable on the big screen. Rogen, of course, is the new Comic God. When the characters take McLovin under their wing, showing him how to shoot and making him look cool, it’s an adolescent nerd’s wet dream.
Part of me wants to see the saga of Seth, Evan and McLovin continue into the college years. Another part says leave the story alone. McLovin rules, but if they spin him off into his own TV show or something, that would suck.