Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007)
Superbad, the latest entrant to the Apatovian canon (films which are written, directed, or produced by the current it-director Judd Apatow), is advertised exactly as such, leeching off the successes of Apatow's previous efforts. That's quite unfortunate though, since I thought Superbad is the superior film among the more acclaimed features which Apatow helped create (such as The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005) and Knocked Up (2007)). It is the only film that works without a whiff of hesitation in what it wants to be, a humorous farce from start to end.
It is unflinchingly obnoxious. The film features more than one hundred fifty mentions of the word fuck, more than a dozen variations of the human penis in various costumes and scenarios (and a few more if you stay put for the end credits), and three helpless and hopeless high school seniors adventuring for a few bottles of liquor so that they be awarded that elusive final fuck before they move on to college.
The screenplay is written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (supposedly started during their early teenage years) and directed by Greg Mottola, Apatow is connected as producer. It is about Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera), alteregoes of the two collaborating writers, who have been invited to a pre-grad party, tasked to bring the booze, and expectant that when they enter the party with their paper bags full of alcohol, they would get their just rewards, a blowjob here or a cherry popped there. The third member of their loser gang, scrawny four-eyed Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the type of kid who drives away girls like an erupting pimple, happens to have acquired a fake ID. The plan is set, seemingly flawless until it turns out the ID says infantile Fogell as twenty five with the name of McLovin (suspiciously and hilariously without any first name), the liquor store where they wish to has been fortuitously robbed, and the two cops (Bill Hader and Seth Rogen) assigned to investigate spirits McLovin away to a trip down police misdemeanors, while Seth and Evan move on to find other sources of booze, all for the sake of drunken sex.
Mottola does a fine job directing the screenplay; he isn't flashy, preferring the actors (Hill as the angry curly-haired fatso, assuming leadership from his heft; Cera as the timid suffering creature; Mintz-Plasse as the token geeky jerk, aftershock of the popularity of Napoleon Dynamite (Jared Hess, 2004) and spelling bees being aired on ESPN; Hader and Rogen as overaged high school seniors dressed in cop clothes, perhaps telling of the futures of the two best friends if they didn't get the rewards of their day's work) to carry on the job which is helped by the fact that Apatow's crew is a solid bunch, a group of suddenly successful twenty-something year old geeks who understand each other, there's no real room for dissent.
Rogen and Goldberg's screenplay is the real heart of the film. It's a mixture of late-teen fantasies (of hooking up with the finest ladies in school, and being proud of a massive boner) and a quarter life approximation of what these late-teen fantasies are (pulp versions of pre-college memories). It works mostly (aside from the token jokes: the menstruation marks on the jeans, the recurring car bumps, among others) because it is both accurate and inaccurate: the pre-graduating anxiety, sexual and otherwise, are palpable but Rogen and Goldberg's version, most probably elevated to fit cinematic standards of today, makes everything palatable through exaggeration.
Late in the film, Seth and Evan, within the safety of a sleeping bag for two, say "I love you" to each other. It's the film's penultimate punchline: that after going through the arduous challenges for booze, they end up with each other (not with their respective female targets) declaring their affirmations of affection to each other, finally sleeping with each other. The humor is of course derived from the idea that it's so gay, especially coming from a film that is so concerned with satisfying heterosexual sexual urges and celebrates penile supremacy. However, it is also the film's emotional moment, a surprising turn in an hour or so of utter nonsense; that once notions of homosexual undertones are buried by the many seconds of agreeing laughter, you discover the veracity of their affirmations and the inevitability of moving on, being separated from the only person in the world who understands unconditionally, and it starts to get sad, starts to get painfully real. Superbad starts to make sense, even more so than middle aged virgins having their first taste of sex or pot-smoking losers impregnating television hosts. It is in fact an ode to something as common as those carefree years and carefree friends gone by.