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Thursday, August 02, 2007

SuperBad - actually only moderately bad. But still bad.

Those who know me are aware that I will often extol the glory that is the Maryland Film Festival for hours on end, often against the audience's will. One of the benefits of associating with the MDFF is the frequent receipt of advance screening passes. A few weeks ago, I received advance screening passes to the movie Superbad. Normally, I wouldn't bother to go see the generic teen comedy in a theater, but it WAS free and I felt like spending some quality time with my good friend, Yo. So, against my better judgment, I headed off to the Hunt Valley Regal cinema, stood in an absurdly slow line, and was frisked for recording devices - all to see Superbad.

Superbad is, as the title implies, bad. The general plot of the movie revolves around two high school seniors and co-dependent best friends, Seth and Evan, as they navigate their final weeks before they go to separate colleges. It's a general coming of age theme, as Seth and Evan come to terms with their inevitable separation. Also, trying to get laid. That's important, too. There is nothing new or novel here.

The main movement of the movie is Seth and Evan's desperate attempt to acquire liquor for a party, in hopes of getting some action from their respective love interests. Various hijinx ensue.

Really, that's it.

The humor is sophomoric, at best, and the dialogue is sub-par to average. It often feels forced and contrived to get in the required amount of penis jokes. Did I mention the extraordinary amount of penis jokes? There is a vague underlying subtext of homoeroticism between the two best friends and all the humor related to that area is included. Not to mention the liberal (read: overuse) of profanity. Listen, I'm not a prude when it comes to profanity and bawdy humor. Not only do I often swear like a sailor myself; I assure you, I thoroughly enjoyed Kevin Smith's Clerks (and various other related movies) as much as anyone else and I frequent Rocky Horror showings. However, in Superbad, the copious amount of obscenity seems awkward and self-conscious, as if it was placed there in a labored, artificial attempt to seem "edgy".

The characters are a mixed bag. In an example of surprising incongruity, the characters, while extremely identifiable, fail to arouse much empathy in the viewer. You'll find yourself thinking, "Hey, that reminds me of so-and-so!" But you won't actually care. All character pairings/groupings, including the protagonist best friends, fail to exude a respectable amount of chemistry. In fact, I felt more likely to identify with Seth and Evan when they fought, than when they were bonding. The only exceptions to the lack of chemistry? Police partners, Officers Slater (Bill Hader) and Michaels; Michaels played by Superbad co-writer, Seth Rogen. In addition, this pair of cops make for the most amiable characters in the movie. Though often subject to arduous task of maintaining a suspension of belief in spite of overly outrageous, unbelievable behavior, they prove to be funny and likable.

In spite of the mediocre script, the movie is not without some extremely funny moments and some casual empathy towards the characters; these benefits are much attributed to the timing and performance of the actors. The acting in Superbad is not a tour de force by any means, but it still proves to be the most redeemable aspect of the movie. While no actor is particularly spectacular, the best performance probably comes from Jonah Hill as Seth. With a firm grasp on comedic timing and delivery, he makes the best of the writing given to him and is the source of the majority of the "laugh out loud" moments. Another mention goes to Emma Stone as Jules for her almost jarringly natural performance, starkly contrasting against the consistently affected acting of most of her co-stars. And on the topic of jarring contrasts, Michael Cera as Evan delivers a surprisingly subtle performance, an ambiguous foil to Hill's screen-grabbing Seth. Unfortunately, without the needed chemistry between Cera and Hill, Cera's performance seems unenthusiastic, or at best, inadvertently unimposing. And finally, the less said about the awkward and labored performance of Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fogel "McLovin", the better.

Final impressions? I left this movie disappointed and I didn't even go into it with high expectations. The ending felt predictable with only a shallow attempt at closure. I left without feeling particularly entertained and debating if it had been worth the time spent seeing it. Even for free. Superbad enjoyed brief, almost accidental, moments of hilarity; but fell short as a whole. So, essentially, it wasn't as bad as Dungeons & Dragons (which kills more brain cells than a week of non-stop heavy drinking, but with less social value), but it doesn't even meet the standards of previous respectable Rogen film, The 40 Year Old Virgin. So, my suggestion? Save your money. Or if you HAVE to see it, at least be drunk.


I will state in the interest of fairness, Superbad does not fall in any of my preferred genres of movies. I dig surrealism, French New Wave, Kung Fu, film noir, foreign films, and pretty much any film by Jan Svankmajer. Without seeing the movie, one could certainly ascertain that Superbad does not even remotely identify with the above genres. However, that's the critic's right; to apply personal tastes to reviewing a movie. So, I disliked it, but if you really dig the generic teen comedy and love you some penis jokes, then this movie may be right up your alley.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was honestly the worst review I have ever read half of. The worst thing any one can say about a movie is that it was accidentaly funny. Do you honsetly think you sence of humor is better of more suffisticated then any in voled with superbad?

2:27 PM  

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