Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Greg Mottola's "Superbad"

Greg Mottola's "Superbad" represents the latest step in the canonization of Judd Apatow who, in this case, served as producer.

The talented Mottola ("The Daytrippers") may be the film's nominal director, but its auteur is the equally talented Apatow. His fingerprints - as well as remnants from the two films he directed, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up" - are all over the project.

Wildly overrated (as was "Knocked Up"), "Superbad" is essentially "American Graffiti Redux," another breezy lark about all-night teen cruising and carousing - only the material's been updated with the usual grotesque humor.

A boffo beginning and terrific ending bookend a mercilessly dull middle patch in which the film's two teen heroes (Jonah Hill and Michael Cera), in a quest for booze for a party, fall in with two truly bizarre cops (Seth Rogan and Bill Hader, both unfunny) and the school's Über-nerd (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, hilarious).

There's a subversive element at work, one that will probably go over the head of the film's target audience, in that Hill's character is a kid who hasn't quite figured out yet that he's gay but who has a major penis fixation and a male-crush on his best friend (Cera).

Consequently, "Superbad" has a sweet side, operating as a kind of romance about unrequited love. Its ending is particularly wistful and sad, especially given all the comic chaos that preceded it.

Hill, Cera and Mintz-Plasse turn in amazingly assured, observant performances which would merit Oscar nominations if the Academy of Arts and Sciences wasn't so pretentious and ageist. And they are matched by the pitch-perfect young actresses here - Martha MacIsaac, Emma Stone and Aviva.

(Artwork: Jonah Hill and Michael Cera in "Superbad")

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4 comments:

Carrie said...

You're right, Joe, the midsection of "Superbad" is an extended version of Charles Martin Smith trying to buy liquor for Candy Clark in "American Graffitti."

Anonymous said...

I'm still not sure why Apatow is getting so much praise. Isn't he basically giving us what the Farrelly's have for years?

joe baltake said...

He's simply the New Flavor in Hollywood - this year's guy with all the answers to the problems that plague the industry. Still, he IS very talented.

Emily said...

Hill deserves an Oscar but, you're right, he'll never even get nomination!