Friday, December 7, 2007

Movie Chat: Superbad


Sweeter than Knocked Up and, more importantly, shorter: it's also better made and at least as funny. But though the general M.O. is the same here as it is throughout the Apatow-Rogen-et al. ouevre - celebrating the contemporary male adolescent lifestyle while at the same time pointing out its limits - the specifics aren't quite as relevant as those in Knocked Up. That is: Knocked Up, despite being made just well enough to get over and despite running at least a half an hour too long, gets a lot of points for trying to deal with an interesting cultural question - what the hell does adulthood look like nowadays? - while Superbad is only a movie about high school kids trying to get laid.

That "only" isn't meant to be damning: minute-for-minute, scene-for-scene, this is probably the funniest movie I've seen all year and, apart from watching Grindhouse late at night in a packed theater, the most fun I've had watching a movie all year.

Still, its focus on (nerdy) guys being guys make it a little more narrow than, say, Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Freaks and Geeks. And its setting - American Suburbia Circa Now - makes it feel more generic and less realized than, say, Hollywood Knights or Dazed & Confused (or even John Hughes's Chicago or Kevin Smith's New Jersey), where the strong sense of time and place gives the movie an added emotional/thematic heft.

Go ahead and accuse me of being a bit of a stiff, but, at this point, I can't help but feel that the Apatow Crew could do better. Moreover, that they should do better, and not because I'm some kind of killjoy who thinks that dumb comedies should strive to be high art or anything, but because they actually have done better - see Freaks and Geeks. They set the standard that they're not living up to. They've gotten funnier and they've built up an impressive "stock company" of (male) comic performers, but the scope of what they're interested in has narrowed. (Maybe because making a TV show requires you to reach out for a broader audience? Maybe it was just Paul Feig?)

So, as good as I think Superbad is for what it is, I hope that their next effort isn't just more of the same.

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