Superbad (Columbia Pictures, R)

superbad1For those of you already looking for another Knocked Up, Superbad might sate your craving, but the difference between those two films is like the difference between F&G and Undeclared—the former is a comedy infused with very real human drama, and the latter is a pretty straightforward comedy.

 

 

 

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Watching all of the Judd Apatow productions that are hugely popular these days (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Anchorman, Knocked Up, etc.), it’s impossible for me, a die-hard Freaks & Geeks fan to not compare or find influence in or reference to in any other way whatever his new film may be to F&G. His newest work, Superbad, which, alongside Evan Goldberg was co-written by his longtime protégé Seth Rogen (Ken from Freaks or Ben from Knocked Up, depending on your frame of reference) and was directed by Greg Mottola, the guy behind the great, more-or-less forgotten 1996 indie The Daytrippers as well as the director of a handful of episodes of Arrested Development and Undeclared (the latter of which is another Apatow joint, which co-starred and was sometimes written by Rogen), is about the easiest yet to make a whole slew of Freaks & Geeks connections to, and most of this comes from Rogen, for whom acting on F&G at the age of 17 had to have been a formative experience for.

For those of you already looking for another Knocked Up, Superbad might sate your craving, but the difference between those two films is like the difference between F&G and Undeclared—the former is a comedy infused with very real human drama, and the latter is a pretty straightforward comedy. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Superbad has more in common with American Pie than it does Knocked Up, which I don’t necessarily mean as an insult. It concerns two high school seniors, Seth (Knocked Up’s Jonah Hill—Apatow sure is assembling quite a reliable troupe of young comedic talents) and Evan (Michael Cera, aka George Michael Bluth, whom everyone knows was the best character on that show) who are trying to score beer for a party so they can their respective crushes Jules (Emma Stone) and Becca (Martha MacIsaac) drunk enough to have sex with them. Along the way they coerce their friend Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who recently got a fake ID that has his name listed as “McLovin,” to help them. Of course, nothing goes quite as planned, and the vast majority of the film’s 114-minute running time concerns them trying to get the beer rather than partying with the beer.

It is relatively transparent that the two leads share the same names as the two writers on the film, and that said writers wrote the first draft of the script when they were 14 (they’re 25 now). (If the young age of the writers seems like it should be a deterrent, you should probably know that in addition to Rogen having written a couple of episodes of Undeclared, the team of Rogen and Goldberg wrote for (and were nominated for an Emmy for) Da Ali G Show, so it’s more a matter of them being immense young talents rather than Apatow tapping young writers to get immaturity correct and modern.) I don’t know what Evan Goldberg looks like, but I can attest that Jonah Hill bears a striking physical similarity to Rogen, so it seems safe to assume that the writers wrote the parts with themselves as models, and perhaps even in mind to play the parts (Rogen winds up playing a cop, Officer Michaels, and his mechanic with his partner Officer Slater (Bill Hader) is very comparable to Seth and Evan’s mechanic, so who knows who the writers had in mind to play the various parts). Most of it plays like how one would imagine an episode of Freaks & Geeks if the Geeks were a few years older and a lot dirtier talking. The casting of Mintz-Plasse, who came from an open casting call and is an unlikely movie star (especially one playing a character named “McLovin”), to say the least, is nicely reminiscent of most of the cast of F&G, most especially the wonderful Stephen Lea Sheppard, who played Harris Trinsky and was storiedly cast under much the same conditions. It’s hard to ignore, too, the inclusion of such unnoticeable references, like when McLovin tells a cashier checking his fake ID that her checking his ID makes him feel young again, when Nick Andopolis (Jason Segel) said the same line almost word-for-word in more or less the same situation in the episode “Carded & Discarded.” One has to wonder exactly how much fertilizer from Freaks & Geeks such as this resulted in the growing of Superbad, but this is all idle and ultimately useless thinking—let’s just be happy that Apatow is now the bankable quantity in Hollywood that he always should have been, that he is revolutionizing Hollywood comedies in consistency of quality, and, since he isn’t working in TV, that we don’t have to worry about his show being cancelled anymore. | Pete Timmermann

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