by GEOFF GEIB
Judd Apatow, he of Freaks and Geeks and The 40 Year Old Virgin fame, is like a really good pop song. On an intellectual level, you just know it’s not that great, and yet you find yourself humming along and tapping your foot to the beat. And like the best pop music, Apatow’s work takes a lot of viewings before you unlock its secrets. He doesn’t write or direct this latest lightweight top 40 confection, but his fingerprints are all over it.
Superbad creates a familiar cinematic world, one in which our high school seniors who have labored in adolescent obscurity for years have one crazy night to try and ply their dream girls with alcohol and then have lots of sex with them. It plays as a farce, a profane and bawdy sex comedy and a self-consciously hip movie that desperately wants to be quotable, and yet despite this uphill battle for my approval, I found the movie immensely likable.
There is a palpable sense of whimsy that permeates virtually every scene and the only slightly too long script must be lauded for it’s go for broke approach to the genre. It’s not every day somebody tries to mix a keystone cops subplot into a more obscene retread of Porky’s. It’s absurdist wit of the highest/lowest order and I laughed a lot. I have a tendency to over analyze, well everything, really, but certainly films, and while there is much to criticize, the bottom line is Superbad is very funny.
Superbad also wants to be a profound statement on male adolescence and traditional (albeit more cinematic than anything else) rites of passage, and while it doesn’t really pull on the old heartstrings with any great success, it does manage to create a sense of authenticity that most teen movies only dream of achieving.
Much of the credit goes to the leads, Jonah Hill and Michael Cera, whose easy camaraderie and joyful exchanges of pointless, agitated banter drive the film from the first frame to the last. The solid comic timing shouldn’t come as a surprise, Hill was about the only funny part of Accepted and Cera contributed fine work to Arrested Development (RIP) for years. When the movie drags, which isn’t often, Hill and Cera do yeoman’s work to pick the pace up and get everything back on track.
I haven’t figured Apatow out yet. I still listen to the music without seeing the notes on the paper. A similar figure, Aaron Sorkin, burst onto the scene with signature pieces like The American President and Sportsnight, but his cadence grew sour after two seasons of the West Wing and what was once the height of drama quickly gave way to the execrable Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. There’s only so long you can play the same tune before I turn the dial. I hope Apatow has an encore ready.
3 1/2 stars