Seth Rogen

Superbad (2007, Greg Mottola), the unrated version

Superbad is exceptionally funny. In terms of how often you lose your breath from laughing, it’s hard to think of a better movie than Superbad. Watching Superbad probably burns between 118 and 315 calories. This unrated version anyway. The rated version would burn about four minutes less. Next time I watch it I’ll have to try to measure it on my Apple Watch. It’s one of the funnier films ever made. A smartly done, utterly obscene teen male virgin comedy. It’s a peerless success in terms of those laughs, a combination of script, actors, and material. Utterly obscene teen male virgin comedies—the kind screenwriters Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg apparently grew up watching—needed the Internet and culture to hit 2007 to fully realize the genre’s potentials.

But it’s just a smartly done, utterly obscene teen male virgin comedy. The script’s got an amazing first act, plotting-wise; the rest of the movie doesn’t. Director Mottola takes a hands-off approach, not really showing much personality until the last shot when you get the feeling he wishes he were making a different, less utterly obscene teen male virgin comedy, but maybe even smarter. Lead Jonah Hill (playing “Seth”) loses his first act protagonist role once the second act hits. By the third act he’s even more reduced. Instead, it’s more about Hill’s best friend, Michael Cera (playing “Evan”), and their awkward third wheel, the hilarious Christopher Mintz-Plasse. They’re all high school seniors. It’s the last two weeks of school. They’re going to a party.

Mintz-Plasse’s side plot is all about his fake ID, liquor, and two party animal cops (Bill Hader and Rogen—who are playing older analogues to the teen boys, but not generally, it’s not one-to-one). It’s the even funnier stuff in the extremely funny movie. Because even though Hill and Cera have a lot of humor in their own liquor hunt (Hill promised dream girl Emma Stone he’d bring all the booze for her party, Cera promised dream girl Martha MacIsaac he’d bring her a special bottle of vodka), they’ve also got their “best friends since the fourth grade who go to different colleges and can’t be joined at the hip anymore” arc. For all their excellent insights into the male psyche, Rogen and Goldberg can’t crack that arc. Meanwhile Mottola is focused on the “boys finally learn girls are people they want to spend time with” arc, which is really awkward because Hill, Cera, and Mintz-Plasse are way too old for that arc.

Their being too old for it does provide a decent backdrop for some of the jokes, but the only time it gets directly referenced is with dream girl Stone. She’s too wise for Hill; he’s been intentionally confusing maturity and vulgarity his whole life and it won’t work with Stone. Meanwhile Cera gets this strangely paternalist arc with MacIsaac, which—given how shallow Cera’s performance schtick gets as the film goes along—is really bad for her. MacIsaac gets a little more screen time than Stone (it feels like a lot more; Stone’s forgettable) and somehow even less character. They’re both dream girl caricatures (albeit 2007 ones). The film never even hints at them being anything more. MacIsaac’s got friends, Stone’s got parents out of town. Done.

Other big problems include the progressive gay jokes. It’s lazy writing more than anything else. Superbad’s got a really big anti-toxic masculinity statement it hints around making without ever having the balls to make it. Also interesting is the lack of teen male virgin shaming, which sort of breaks the genre.

I also don’t understand how the Richard Pryor shirt Hill wears through the first act didn’t become the Garfield-in-the-car-window of the late aughts. Pryor’s expression gets laughs of its own, like he’s offering commentary on the surrounding events. It’s awesome.

Lots of Superbad is awesome. It’s peerlessly funny. It’s also astoundingly not ambitious.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Greg Mottola; written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg; director of photography, Russ Alsobrook; edited by William Kerr; music by Lyle Workman; production designer, Chris Spellman; produced by Judd Apatow and Shauna Robertson; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Jonah Hill (Seth), Michael Cera (Evan), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Fogell), Seth Rogen (Officer Michaels), Bill Hader (Officer Slater), Kevin Corrigan (Mark), Martha MacIsaac (Becca), Emma Stone (Jules) and Joe Lo Truglio (Francis the Driver).


Steve Jobs (2015, Danny Boyle)

Steve Jobs is unexpected. It is a parody of itself, it is a parody of being an “Oscar-worthy” biopic about a topical, zeitgeist figure. Down to having Seth Rogen in a dramatic part. Steve Jobs feels very conscious. In Michael Fassbender’s Jobs, the film gets to create a world where Steve Jobs doesn’t just get to act like a movie star, he gets to look like one too. Director Boyle, cinematographer Alwin H. Küchler, editor Elliot Graham, they embrace the artificiality of it all. Because Aaron Sorkin’s script isn’t a screenplay as much as a filmed stage play, the performance is part of it. The casting is part of it.

Just getting it out there–Rogen’s good. Boyle’s a good enough director, Sorkin’s a good enough writer, they can turn Rogen’s inability to actually act into an asset. Rogen’s so disarming, one really does believe he can do math (and all the other stuff Steve Wozniak can do). It’s a strange performance and Fassbender plays off it a little differently than any other in the film.

Every actor has a different style. Fassbender treats the whole thing as a metamorphosis without every determining whether he’s going from caterpillar to butterfly or butterfly to something else. There’s a weight to the role. Fassbender’s this perfect Aaron Sorkin lead–abrasive but almost always right, condescending but strangely earnest–and Boyle just sits back and watches him go, watches him play off the other actors, who are doing different things.

Kate Winslet’s got this big performance. It’s supporting, but it’s another perfect Sorkin character. Except Winslet’s got her own performance going on, her own understanding of the character. It’s a very different approach than Rogen gets. The film’s about its actors and how they perform the script. Just Sorking walking and talking-style; everyone popping in like it’s A Christmas Carol to tell Ebenezer Jobs how he still hasn’t figured it out yet.

Great supporting performances from Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg and Katherine Waterston.

It’s an understated, strange, wonderful film. Boyle and Sorkin get along like Capra and Riskin, Fassbender and Winslet are phenomenal. Steve Jobs is magnificent.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Danny Boyle; screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, based on the book by Walter Isaacson; director of photography, Alwin H. Küchler; edited by Elliot Graham; music by Daniel Pemberton; production designer, Guy Hendrix Dyas; produced by Boyle, Guymon Casady, Christian Colson, Mark Gordon and Scott Rudin; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Kate Winslet (Joanna Hoffman), Seth Rogen (Steve Wozniak), Jeff Daniels (John Sculley), Michael Stuhlbarg (Andy Hertzfeld), Katherine Waterston (Chrisann Brennan), Makenzie Moss, Ripley Sobo & Perla Haney-Jardine (Lisa Brennan) and Sarah Snook (Andy Cunningham).


The Watch (2012, Akiva Schaffer)

The Watch deals in caricature and stereotype. Ben Stiller’s the anal-retentive, Vince Vaughn (can anyone even remember when he tried acting) is the aging bro, Jonah Hill’s the kid in his early twenties who lives with his mom (and hordes guns, which dates the film) and Richard Ayoade’s the deadpan, socially awkward British guy. If anything, hopefully The Watch at least got one person to see Ayoade’s good work.

Oh, and Rosemarie DeWitt’s the sturdy, but doesn’t have enough to do wife (to Stiller). Actually, more than anyone else in the cast, Will Forte has the most to do as the dumb local cop. He at least gets to emote. Vaughn should get to emote because he has a whole (lame) subplot with daughter Erin Moriarty (who, like DeWitt, Forte and Ayoade, acts instead of apes), but it’s Vaughn and he doesn’t. Obnoxious charm is supposed to carry him, just like awkward charm is supposed to carry Hill and persnickety charm is supposed to carry Stiller.

Watching The Watch, I couldn’t help but think of it as ephemera. None of the jokes are smart enough on their own– Jared Stern’s script, with a credited revision from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, has no aspirations. Not even to be appreciated multiple times. The Watch is designed to amuse once and never too much. Thanks to Akiva Shaffer’s mediocre direction, comes off like an unambitious episode of “Home Improvement.” One with a lot of product placement.

But, thanks to the cast, it’s amusing enough. They’re good at their schticks and the movie does move rather well. It’s a little too forced with its attempts at edgy humor, but the whole thing is too forced. Shaffer’s doing an alien invasion movie without, apparently, any knowledge of any alien invasion film ever made.

Really bland photography from Barry Peterson doesn’t help anything and Christophe Beck’s music (which starts all right) doesn’t either.

In trying too hard to be dumb, The Watch occasionally succeeds. Though the pointlessness of Billy Crudup’s (uncredited) supporting role sort of sums up the entire misdirection of the film.

Everyone should watch “The IT Crowd” instead.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Akiva Schaffer; written by Jared Stern, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg; director of photography, Barry Peterson; edited by Dean Zimmerman; music by Christophe Beck; production designer, Doug J. Meerdink; produced by Shawn Levy; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Ben Stiller (Evan), Vince Vaughn (Bob), Jonah Hill (Franklin), Richard Ayoade (Jamarcus), Rosemarie DeWitt (Abby), Erin Moriarty (Chelsea), Will Forte (Sgt. Bressman), R. Lee Ermey (Manfred) and Billy Crudup (Paul).


Knocked Up (2007, Judd Apatow), the unrated version

Once upon a time, I read how what Apatow really does with Knocked Up is make a film about how men need to change to be acceptable for women. I think the article used stronger language. While that aspect of the film is present, it’s an extreme reading. It could just as well be about how a contentless young woman learns there’s something more important in life than shoes. Apatow backs off that aspect in terms of lead Katherine Heigl (she couldn’t have handled it anyway), but does give Leslie Mann (as her sister) a decent arc.

Unfortunately, he eventually loses track of Paul Rudd (as Mann’s husband) on his arc.

The film never really succeeds because it eventually requires the viewer to believe Heigl’s a good person. She’s not a murderer or anything… but good person is a stretch. Heigl doesn’t have any dramatic range (though her comedy timing is surprisingly good) and the romance between her and Seth Rogen, which one might say is essential, fails.

So, instead, Knocked Up is often just really funny. Even when Apatow’s doing his heartfelt scenes, he manages to get in a bunch of dick and fart jokes.

It helps he’s got Rogen, who’s fantastic, and the rest of the supporting cast. Jason Segel’s awesome; Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr, all good. Alan Tudyk and Kristen Wiig (especially Wiig) are great in small parts.

Apatow seems to want the viewer to think about Knocked Up, which doesn’t play to its strengths.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Judd Apatow; director of photography, Eric Alan Edwards; edited by Craig Alpert and Brent White; music by Joe Henry and Loudon Wainwright III; production designer, Jefferson Sage; produced by Apatow, Shauna Robertson and Clayton Townsend; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Seth Rogen (Ben Stone), Katherine Heigl (Alison Scott), Paul Rudd (Pete), Leslie Mann (Debbie), Jason Segel (Jason), Jay Baruchel (Jay), Jonah Hill (Jonah), Martin Starr (Martin), Charlyne Yi (Jodi), Iris Apatow (Charlotte), Maude Apatow (Sadie), Joanna Kerns (Alison’s Mom), Harold Ramis (Ben’s Dad), Alan Tudyk (Jack), Kristen Wiig (Jill), Bill Hader (Brent), Ken Jeong (Dr. Kuni) and Craig Robinson (Club Doorman).


The Green Hornet (2011, Michel Gondry)

Of the Seth Rogen films I’ve seen—those he’s written, I mean—The Green Hornet is the weakest. It’s only partially Rogen and cowriter Evan Goldberg’s fault. The concept does not present them with the best opportunities.

At its most amusing, it’s usually Rogen and costar Jay Chou bickering. Rogen and Goldberg’s strength is when the film is a bromance, something they eventually have to abandon in order to have a superhero movie. Unfortunately, the big superhero plot they come up with is pretty weak—there’s only so much one can do with the character, like I said—and it gets a tedious in the third act.

Rogen and Chou are both excellent; they make the movie worth watching. Cameron Diaz is actually not annoying as their unwilling joint love interest (major potential is actually wasted with her, though the unlikely sequel would have probably put her to better use). Her success is the script’s fault. Rogen and Goldberg actually write a good script… just not the masked adventurers parts of it.

Tom Wilkinson is wasted. David Harbour’s bad in a supporting role. Edward James Olmos is fine; Edward Furlong has a good cameo… as does an uncredited former costar of Rogen’s.

As the villain, Christoph Waltz tries hard but too much. He can’t sell the absurdity of his character.

Gondry’s direction is actually pretty indistinct. A stronger hand might have made it work.

Good photography from John Schwartzman and bad music from James Newton Howard.

It’s an interesting failure.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Michel Gondry; screenplay by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, based on a radio series created by George W. Trendle; director of photography, John Schwartzman; edited by Michael Tronick; music by James Newton Howard; production designer, Owen Paterson; produced by Neal H. Moritz; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Seth Rogen (Britt Reid / The Green Hornet), Jay Chou (Kato), Cameron Diaz (Lenore Case), Tom Wilkinson (James Reid), Christoph Waltz (Chudnofsky), David Harbour (D.A. Frank Scanlon), Edward James Olmos (Mike Axford), Jamie Harris (Popeye), Chad Coleman (Chili) and Edward Furlong (Tupper).


Funny People (2009, Judd Apatow), the unrated version

Funny People plays a little like Judd Apatow wrote two-thirds of something he really loved so he decided to keep going… adding another two-thirds. So he ended up with four-thirds of a movie and because he’s Judd Apatow, he got to make it without skinning it down. I don’t think I’d even call him on it, except he doesn’t close it. He needs at least another third (so five-thirds) to get Funny People to finish right.

I think, somewhere in that paragraph, I meant to say it’s mostly outstanding. I’d heard great things about it, but even so… it’s far better than I expected from Apatow’s other work. The first two-thirds—which basically closes with Eminem musing on the meaning of life—is sublime. The rest is more of what I expected, but still good. It’s Apatow reality—it looks like a promotional photo for a nice hotel, but with cursing and human struggle.

Adam Sandler’s great. I almost wonder if Apatow realized how great he’d be (sort of playing a riff on himself) because Seth Rogen ends up getting too much screen time. Rogen’s good, but not as good.

Jason Schwartzman and Eric Bana are both excellent. Leslie Mann’s all right, but the script doesn’t let her character be complex enough.

Jonah Hill’s starting to get annoying.

Amazing RZA cameo.

Apatow runs long with Funny People; it really felt like he realized he couldn’t stop until he made it sublime again.

But he didn’t.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Judd Apatow; director of photography, Janusz Kaminski; edited by Craig Alpert and Brent White; music by Michael Andrews and Jason Schwartzman; production designer, Jefferson Sage; produced by Apatow, Barry Mendel and Clayton Townsend; released by Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures.

Starring Adam Sandler (George Simmons), Seth Rogen (Ira Wright), Leslie Mann (Laura), Eric Bana (Clarke), Jonah Hill (Leo Koenig), Jason Schwartzman (Mark Taylor Jackson), Aubrey Plaza (Daisy), Maude Apatow (Mable), Iris Apatow (Ingrid), RZA (Chuck), Aziz Ansari (Randy), Torsten Voges (Dr. Lars) and Allan Wasserman (Dr. Stevens).


Paul (2011, Greg Mottola)

Maybe Simon Pegg needs Edgar Wright or maybe Nick Frost just shouldn’t be writing because Paul should be great and it’s not.

Some of the problem comes from having Seth Rogen voice the titular, CG alien. Rogen does a fine job but he’s such a dynamic presence, Pegg and Frost sort of fade into the background. But it’s also a really busy script, with Jason Bateman hunting down the fugitives, Kristen Wiig meeting up with them and then John Carroll Lynch (as her father) chasing them down too.

Oh, and Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio as Bateman’s subordinates.

It also occurs to me it’s Pegg’s first American film (as a co-writer and production force) and that factor might be the damning one. Mottola is the wrong director for this film. He brings no personality to it and he probably got Hader and Wiig the jobs. Hader’s awful and Wiig’s mediocre. And whoever casted Sigourney Weaver should have realized his or her mistake when her painfully unfunny comic performance showed up in the dailies and done something about it.

However, it’s got a wonder part for Blythe Danner. If the film had been more Danner and less everyone (except the alien), it would have been a lot better.

Jeffrey Tambor is pretty funny in an unfortunately tiny role.

Still, it’s not awful and is mildly entertaining. The jokes in the script are pretty funny, it’s just not a good script.

Paul even manages to bore in its obvious shortcomings.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Greg Mottola; written by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg; director of photography, Lawrence Sher; edited by Chris Dickens; music by David Arnold; production designer, Jefferson Sage; produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Nira Park; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Simon Pegg (Graeme Willy), Nick Frost (Clive Gollings), Seth Rogen (Paul), Kristen Wiig (Ruth Buggs), Jason Bateman (Special Agent Lorenzo Zoil), Bill Hader (Agent Haggard), Joe Lo Truglio (Agent O’Reilly), Jane Lynch (Pat Stevenson), Sigourney Weaver (the Big Guy), Blythe Danner (Tara Walton), Mia Stallard (Young Tara Walton), John Carroll Lynch (Moses Buggs), David Koechner (Gus), Jesse Plemons (Jake) and Jeffrey Tambor (Adam Shadowchild).


The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005, Judd Apatow), the unrated version

I don’t get it. I mean, I kind of get it–the movie’s cute and funny–but I don’t really get it. Not the critical acclaim. I think it’s actually my first Judd Apatow movie–I don’t remember Celtic Pride though I know I saw it–and I’m disappointed. It’s like a sitcom. Apatow directs it like a lot of unimaginative sitcoms are directed. It looks like an episode of “Joey.” A bad episode of “Joey.”

But the script’s not particularly strong either. It’s really heavy on sentiment and it’s version of gross-out humor (gross-out but heartwarming, something Something About Mary did seven years earlier and more successfully), but it’s not at all heavy on creating realistic characters. I don’t believe in The 40 Year Old Virgin. I believe in them, in their existence, I might even believe Steve Carell’s character is one… but I don’t believe he’s a real person. The film goes through lengths to seem “real,” from the eBay store to the lame jobs, but it’s very… sitcom-like. A lot of that fault is Apatow’s direction, but the script isn’t helpful. The characters aren’t real. I don’t believe Paul Rudd has a close friend who’s been to prison twice.

I am also iffy on Carell as a movie star. He was so successful in this one, he turned it into his character for “The Office.” Laughable but sympathetic.

Some of it might have to do with the joylessness of it all. It felt mechanical.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Judd Apatow; written by Apatow and Steve Carell; director of photography, Jack N. Green; edited by Brent White; music by Lyle Workman; production designer, Jackson De Govia; produced by Apatow, Clayton Townsend and Shauna Robertson; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Steve Carell (Andy Stitzer), Catherine Keener (Trish), Paul Rudd (David), Romany Malco (Jay), Seth Rogen (Cal), Elizabeth Banks (Beth), Leslie Mann (Nicky), Jane Lynch (Paula), Gerry Bednob (Mooj), Shelley Malil (Haziz), Kat Dennings (Marla), Jordy Masterson (Mark), Chelsea Smith (Julia) and Jonah Hill (eBay Customer).


Pineapple Express (2008, David Gordon Green)

Maybe American cinema is okay after all, maybe it is evolving. Or maybe Pineapple Express is just an exception. It certainly seems like Seth Rogen’s finding the right mix for popularity and quality, but Express outdoes anything I thought it’d be.

After a shaky prologue sequence–which overuses Bill Hader for some kind of a Superbad reference and underuses James Remar, who only gets a couple lines–Express moves into safe territory. It’s Rogen being a funny pothead while he goes about doing funny things as a process server. It’s all very funny and very safe. Rogen and co-writer Evan Goldberg manage to incorporate the most astounding plot elements and make them work–Rogen’s got an eighteen year-old high school girlfriend and there’s a great scene with him getting jealous over one of her classmates. It shouldn’t work, but it does and beautifully.

Then James Franco enters the story. Pineapple Express is, while still very funny in its quick scenes at this point, able to take a break for Franco and Rogen to sit around for a long scene. The scene’s funny, but it’s also character establishing. Express does narrative work while it’s treading water. The film mixes genres better than any American film I’m familiar with.

The film then evolves into the stoners on the lam comedy the trailers advertise. This period only lasts a little while (it’s hard to tell how long the periods last in Express, which runs close to two hours) and includes a hilarious fight scene.

But when the film becomes a buddy action movie–Pineapple Express owes more to Lethal Weapon than anything else–it gets fantastic. It plays with the genre it’s aping while never leaving it. It’s Lethal Weapon with Danny Glover and Mel Gibson hugging. But it still maintains that original genre–the stoner comedy–even during the intricate action scenes.

Director Green does a great job with those action scenes–seeing Gary Cole do John Woo is a great sight gag–but it’s kind of strange how little I thought about the direction throughout. Green does a fine job, but Pineapple Express is all about the script. Down to the relationship between Cole and Rosie Perez (who better have a comeback after her performance in this film), it’s absolutely perfect. I know Green did something–he got Franco his t-shirt design, for instance–but it seems like the script dictated the direction. There was only one way to do these scenes and the film does them in that way.

At the center–eventually–of Pineapple Express is the relationship between Rogen and Franco. The script gives the male friendship the language of a teenage romance, which works–both comedically and not. The film pushes the past the humor and stays with the approach. It isn’t for the one laugh, it’s for the entire film, which makes it rather affecting.

Danny McBride is really funny in the film’s flashiest role, but in terms of acting, Craig Robinson kind of runs away with the film. Every line reading he gives is fantastic and there’s a joy in waiting for him to appear and deliver another. Nora Dunn and Ed Begley Jr. are also hilarious in small roles, again thanks to the script.

There’s a certain level a film like Pineapple Express can attain–and it does–so there’s a question to exactly how good of a film Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg can write. If they keep at this level, or even a little under, it’d be fine–there aren’t many new American films as good as this one–but I’m wondering if they’re capable of doing even better. I can’t wait to see what they do next….

I’ll probably still be laughing at jokes from Express until then.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by David Gordon Green; written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, based on a story by Judd Apatow, Rogen and Goldberg; director of photography, Tim Orr; edited by Craig Alpert; music by Graeme Revell; production designer, Chris Spellman; produced by Apatow and Shauna Robertson; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Seth Rogen (Dale Denton), James Franco (Saul Silver), Danny McBride (Red), Kevin Corrigan (Budlofsky), Craig Robinson (Matheson), Gary Cole (Ted Jones), Rosie Perez (Carol), Ed Begley Jr. (Robert), Nora Dunn (Shannon), Amber Heard (Angie Anderson), Joe Lo Truglio (Mr. Edwards), Arthur Napiontek (Clark), Cleo King (Police Liaison Officer), Bill Hader (Private Miller) and James Remar (General Bratt).


Superbad (2007, Greg Mottola)

Superbad opens with the 1970s Columbia Pictures logo, features a 1970s soundtrack and, for much of the film, features its main character, played by Jonah Hill, wearing something seventies-esque. Those elements go far in creating a flavor for Superbad, as does the Southern California landscape. I’m not sure how important the flavor is to Superbad‘s success, since it’s still a funny movie. The script’s lulls rarely go on for a full minute, a good example being when Hill interrupts a soccer game to tell Michael Cera their plans for the evening (and setting the present action limits for the film) and Hill calls a bothersome soccer player (Cera’s in the middle of a game) a bed-wetter, recalling a bladder incident from eight years earlier. Then they don’t let the joke go. The player responds, Hill responds. Rogen and Goldberg’s script is the perfect comedy on the scene level. They know how to make it work and they know how to get the most from every scene. There’s not a single scene with an incomplete feeling to it (not a comedic scene, anyway).

The film’s getting a lot of online attention because of Michael Cera, who rabid fanboys seem to like almost as much as they like that sixteen year-old girl in the Harry Potter movies. Cera’s excellent in the film, except it’s not really an acting job. He’s playing his existing persona in a sex comedy for the first time. His performance is perfect; it doesn’t appear to have been much work. I wouldn’t even be commenting on it (Cera’s scenes are hilarious, especially the one where he has to sing for a bunch of violent adults at a party), if it weren’t for Hill’s performance. Hill gives a singular performance in this film–most of the raunchy lines are his, but he still manages to be the deepest character in the film. Cera’s depth possibilities get hurt by the handling of his big scene, when it’s more about the audience getting it than Cera getting it. But Hill… every scene with the guy, he’s amazing. And he’s amazing in ways suggesting his next performance will be as good (hopefully it won’t be in a Roland Emmerich movie as the comic relief).

Greg Mottola’s direction is as anti-hip as Hill and Cera’s clothing. He shot Superbad with the new Panavision Genesis digital camera and it’s hard to believe. Mottola’s job is pretty simple, to record the funny action going on, and he does it well. But there are a few times I remember really appreciating him.

Now for the problem. It’s really sentimental and really simple. While Cera and Hill have their adventures, another kid has adventures with a couple cops who act like Hill and Cera will if they never grow up. It’s a boy-to-man transition movie and it gets hammered in with a jackhammer. Instead of being content with its position as the funniest movie I can remember seeing, Superbad has to go and turn in a loony coda, taking all kinds of shortcuts with character development, just so it can have its sentimental, significant ending. Like most one night present action films, Superbad sets itself up for needing some real resolution and–since it’s already running 110–it hurries it through in three minutes, sucking a lot of the interesting possibilities from what it previously established. It’s a cheap ending masquerading as a good ending.

But even if the last four minutes of screen action are, basically, laugh-free, the preceding 114 are full of them. It’s a mixed bag and should not have been one.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Greg Mottola; written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg; director of photography, Russ Alsobrook; edited by William Kerr; music by Lyle Workman; production designer, Chris Spellman; produced by Judd Apatow and Shauna Robertson; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Jonah Hill (Seth), Michael Cera (Evan), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Fogell), Seth Rogen (Officer Michaels), Bill Hader (Officer Slater), Kevin Corrigan (Mark), Martha MacIsaac (Becca), Emma Stone (Jules) and Joe Lo Truglio (Francis the Driver).


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