Let us all say a prayer of thanks for Judd Apatow, writer/director of The 40-Year-Old-Virgin and Knocked Up . The newest movie to emerge from his producing nimbus, called Superbad , is the funniest film since Borat! Just as Borat! pushed its rigged situations to the breaking point, a lot of what makes Superbad laugh-out-loud funny is that it tests the very limits of the R rating. The male and female genital-obsessed dialog is so profane, it passes Tarantino on the left doing 125 mph. I’m sure the MPAA would have demanded changes, had they not been on the floor holding their ribs.
Part of the Apatow formula – partly his temperament, partly taking inspiration from the Farrelly Brothers — is that you can get away with near infinite raunch if you balance it with sweetness. That leavening is provided here by the deep affection best friends Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) have for each other, even as they are growing apart, one preparing for college, the other preparing for not much. Seth is a curly-haired, fat little ball of energy, whose eyes pop in apoplexy – part John Belushi, part Tom hanks. Evan doesn’t stutter, quite, but the words never seem to come fast enough; and when they do, they often make awkward situations even more painful. These boys click together like Legos.
Seth and Evan are virgins with years of stoppered hormones and no idea how to talk to girls. Where the movie is perceptive is that, though the boys don’t see it, the girls are just as awkward. A pair of hotties, seemingly way out of Seth and Evan’s league, miraculously give them the time of day. We squirm as the guys brag about the fake ID they’re getting, and their supposed carousal in clubs (Becca, played by a very funny Martha MacIsaac, asks why she never sees Evan at parties. He’s too busy doing cooler things, he says).
Jules, Emma Stone, Seth’s intended, kinda likes him before she ever takes advantage of him; she’s a good egg. Then she turns those startling baby blues on him, from behind her copper hair, asking Seth to use the vaunted fake ID to buy alcohol for her party. So he and Evan are off on an odyssey to make it to the party with the booze.
Because the script, by childhood friends Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Seth and Evan, get it?), aims for the outrageous, some of the boys’ adventures ring false, especially a subplot with a couple of cops that’s terribly, terribly unlikely (though charming). Drawing down on a drunk at a crowded bar? The lack of plausibility keeps the film from achieving the heights of the classic Dazed and Confused .
Seth, however, is real and memorable, though he can get on your nerves. He’s like a horniness pressure cooker. His best friend is about to go off to a good college without him; it is desperately important to him that he get a girlfriend for the summer. The film’s most moving scene is when – without revealing too much, I hope – he arrives at the party with the alcohol. For one slow-motion moment, he’s the quintessence of cool; on one of Tarantino’s famous walks, with Matthew McConaughey, king of the pool hall, on his left, Travolta in a white suit on his right; Tom Sawyer at his own funeral. Such moments in life are few enough and fleeting, and the smart film knows to stretch them out.
Reviewing movies for WFIU, this is Peter Noble-Kuchera