While in Minneapolis I managed to watch two movies about high school that really couldn't have possibly been more different, but in their own way almost equally appealing.
The first, of course, was "Superbad," which I've been waiting to see for, well, it seems like three years or so. And, first things first, it didn't disappoint in the least. To a packed house on a truly dreary Saturday afternoon (aside: Malls, on a rainy day, are to Minnesotans like libraries are to homeless people; that place was just crammed full of people!), the flick delivered all the laughs I expected and even a little more heart.
Though it never really grinds to halt, the jokes flow fastest in the first half hour or so, in which Jonah Hill is a pretty much unstoppable fountain of profanity. And I hope I never get too old to enjoy that. The best joke I hadn't heard in advance involved oral sex and the Vietnam War, but there's plenty to laugh at, even if, like me, you watched every possible second of YouTube advance footage.
And Michael Cera, though he's often left to just react to this ball of energy, manages to get in some choice lines in the few seconds that Mr. Hill stops spouting off. He may soon fall into a rut of playing the straight man in ensemble comedies, but he was great at it on "Arrested Development" and also very funny here. As a team, they work so well together because you can tell they have become the kind of friends this movie celebrates. (And, admittedly only because it generates lots of traffic to my rather silly site everytime I mention it, take a few minutes to check out Mr. Cera's extremely funny Clarkandmichael.com site.)
And of course, a word or two about the story might help, just in case there's someone out there who doesn't know about this one. It's essentially the quest for the holy grail of teen-age conquest: booze and broads. But it's also a fairly touching story about male friendship (pushed to the brink of hetero man-love), and a far sight funnier than the many other movies that have travelled down this familiar road.
As a co-conspirator in this quest, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, a k a "McLovin," is much funnier than your standard geek, but by the end of the movie I could already envision him becoming as annoying as Jon Heder post-"Napoleon Dynamite." It doesn't help that his story line, involving two dangerously juvenile cops (co-writer Seth Rogen and Bill Hader), is the movie's weakest thread. It's saved, though, by just enough directing style from Greg Mottola, who, like many people you'll spot in the crowd scenes of "Superbad," cut his teeth in the Apatow empire early with work on the fairly great one-season TV series "Undeclared."
Now, bear with me for a second and try not to scream. I'm not saying, by any stretch, that Greg Mottola has much of anything at all in common with Martin Scorsese. However, and maybe it's just me, but what saves this stretch of the flick, with the dual storylines of McLovin and our two heroes, is that it's paced a whole lot like "After Hours," easily the silliest Scorsese flick and therefore one of my favorites. Like that flick, it just keeps piling on the absurdities, leaving you little time to realize just how silly it really gets.
In the car afterward, we were talking about how, in a truly twisted fashion, the movies in Apatow-world are really about "family values." Well, as much as a movie that has a truly tasteless (but very funny) joke about the side effects of dancing while menstruating can be, anyway. In the end, and I won't spoil anything here, the dudes ultimately do the right thing, though thankfully never in anything approaching an afterschool special-type way.
As with "Knocked Up," there was one joke that almost crossed the line for me, but still managed to keep me laughing (in "Knocked Up" it was the pinkeye joke, and here it was the "green beer," which you won't hear anymore about from me.) And, though this is clearly a movie that's all about male bonding, the women are surprisingly well-developed (and no, though this is a review of the movie "Superbad," I'm not making any kind of thoroughly inappropriate comment about female anatomy here) too. Martha MacIsaac as Becca and even moreso Emma Stone as Jules take full advantage of their short screen time, and frankly fare just as well or better than Katherine Heigl in "Knocked Up." If I had to pick only one of the summer's funniest two flicks, I'd take "Superbad," but only by a nose (and, thankfully, I don't see any reason why I won't soon own them both on DVD anyway.)
Also after the flick, in an act of purely silly hyperbole, I declared to my running mates for the day, my brother and his friend Jason, that we are now in "a golden age of R-rated comedies." Even if that is an exaggeration, I do have to say thanks for movies that make me think just enough and laugh a whole lot, often at the most crude jokes imaginable.
The other high-school flick I saw, by the way, was the thoroughly charming but rather horribly named "Rocket Science," but since I still have to work for a living, more on that will have to come tomorrow. For now I'll leave you with the trailer for Jake Kasdan and Judd Apatow's Christmas offering, the appropriately absurd "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," which should finally make John C. Reilly the star he deserves to be. Peace out.