This year has dealt a serious blow to my ability to claim any one film is the ‘best’ anything of this year, especially when it comes to comedies*. 2007 has been bafflingly rich in comic gold, and if you had told me back in February that Hot Fuzz might not be the best comedy of the year, I’d have shat on your face. But with love. And then if you had told me in May that Knocked Up still wouldn’t be the best comedy of the year, I’d have poisoned you with a cyanide suppository. Now if you’re going to tell me that Superbad isn’t the best comedy of the year, I’m going to hack into NORAD and try to play a little global thermonuclear war.
Actually, it’s not fair to compare those three films, even though they’re all movies with male bonding as an important element (that element is central in Fuzz and Superbad, while it’s more of an obstacle in Knocked Up). They’re also all incredibly funny, but they’re all trying for different things and hitting different comedy buttons. I think that in the end, though, the film that spoke to me the most was Superbad.
Superbad, essentially, is the filthiest episode of Freaks & Geeks ever. If that sounds just as fucking incredible to you as it does to me, then you’re going to love this movie. It’s as simple as that. Judd Apatow’s team of comic geniuses – this time it’s Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg on the scripting and Greg Mottola behind the camera – have captured a profane slice of the reality of being a dorky high school kid who really wants to get laid.
Let’s face it, on the surface the concept of the movie is a terrible one. We’ve all seen a hundred movies about dweebs who want to lose their V-card, and in the end most of these films feel like they’re being written from the point of view of a 40 year old remembering his time in high school filtered through decades of pornographic fantasy. Superbad is something of a miracle because Goldberg and Rogen began writing it when they were in high school themselves; while the script has obviously gone through massive changes in the decade and change since they started working on it, the verisimilitude of the piece shines through. Maybe these events – some of which are really wacky – didn’t happen to me, but these feelings did. I know what it’s like to be leaving behind your best friend when college starts. I know what it’s like to get drunk beyond belief because you think you’re better that way. I know what it’s like to be standing just on the outside of the coolest circle, and I’ll bet a lot of you know it too.
The emotional reality (which is hidden in the gags like landmines across the landscape of Africa) wouldn’t mean anything without two leads who could bring it out. Jonah Hill and Michael Cera are an amazing comic team, and most incredibly a fresh one. I could name you a couple of other teams whose dynamics are present in this pairing, but there’s no duo to whom I feel Cera and Hill are beholden. There’s something so legitimate in their friendship and the way they share the power in it back and forth that it’s hard for me to express; simply put it’s like they’re truly best friends. That bond between them sells a lot of what happens, and allows you to see past the script’s occasionally standard story points to enjoy the hilarious, gooey center.
Offsetting these two and their outsized but realistic problems over the course of one crazy night is McLovin, a character destined to be run into the ground by unfunny frat boys and internet meme fags. When annoying nerd Fogell gets a fake ID with the name McLovin (nothing else. Just McLovin), he gets caught up in a ludicrous but hilarious series of events featuring two off-kilter cops played by Rogen and Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader. While Hill and Cera have adventures that you can believe in, everything that happens to McLovin is off the charts, and yet still terrific. Mottola shows a deft comic hand in being able to juggle these two halves of the film, and to keep you interested in McLovin while following the two leads, and vice versa. McLovin and the cops come close to stealing the movie, but this film is so well put together that no one element overwhelms.
I was hurting after seeing Superbad. My belly hurt from laughing, and my throat was sore. My hands even stung a little from involuntary ‘That’s so fucking hilarious!’ clapping (I may be part seal). I know that we have been pimping this film hard here for the last few weeks (we did try to tone it down this week), but I have to say that if you don’t go see Superbad this weekend not only are you missing out on a great, hilarious and wonderful film, you’re missing out on a pop culture moment. Every now and again a movie hits that crosses all the lines and becomes a sensation on its own – Superbad is that movie.
*Sadly, Rob Zombie’s Halloween and The Invasion have both made it tough for me to call one specific film the worst of the year, so it’s a problem I have going and coming.