Sometimes I think Judd Apatow has a telescope that he uses to look in on the lives of various nerds around the country, in order to find material for his movies. Lord knows, as I've watched Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, The 40 Year Old Virgin, and other Apatow projects, I've felt like he managed to get a part of me onto the screen with his endearingly pathetic characters. When I saw the trailers for Superbad, starring Jonah Hill and Arrested Development's Michael Cera, I was jumping for joy. The story of two awkward teenagers trying to get laid, written by Knocked Up's Seth Rogen? Sold!
Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) are in their last few weeks of high school. They've been friends for years, but they're set to go to different colleges. They're both still virgins, and that doesn't sit right with either of them. Things begin looking up when Seth gets invited to a party by Jules (Emma Stone), a girl far too pretty to like him, or so he presumes. Evan, meanwhile, has long had a crush on Becca (Martha MacIsaac), but neither have the guts to actually approach each other in a romantic way. Seth is asked to get alcohol for the party when Fogel (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) declares he's getting a fake I.D. Seth is convinced that this is his one and only chance to get laid before college, while Evan just wants a chance to be with Becca.
The problems begin almost immediately, as Fogel's I.D. is Hawaiian, and the name on it is simply "McLovin." When Fogel attempts to buy alcohol, the store is mugged, and Fogel finds himself in the custody of two cops (Seth Rogen and Bill Hader) who believe that he is, in fact, McLovin, a 25-year old Hawaiian organ donor. Seth and Evan, not knowing of the mugging, think that Fogel is getting arrested, and bail. So begins an odyssey for all three, as Seth and Evan attempt to get alcohol and Fogel gets into increasingly insane antics with the cops.
Superbad doesn't sound terribly different from a dozen generic high school flicks, but it has a ring of authenticity that so many others lack. The script by Rogen and Goldberg was written when they were in fact in high school, which would explain the reason that the material feels so real. The filmmakers also dared to make a hard R film. There's a ton of talk of genitalia, and sex, and shots of breasts, and ass, and even a little menstruetion thrown in for good measure. This only makes sense, as high schoolers tend to act in "hard R" kind of ways.
Michael Cera and Jonah Hill are the perfect pair. Hill made a splash with his cameo in The 40 Year Old Virgin and stole the show in Accepted and Knocked Up. He was set to break out and this is the film that did it. Cera was an unbelievable find for Arrested Development, turning awkwardness and embarrasment into an entirely new artform. The two play off each other brilliantly, with Jonah screaming and ranting, and Michael responding in the most low key of ways.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fogel/McLovin is another amazing discovery. Superbad is his acting debut, and he's a natural. He plays the connsumate geek, someone so nerdy that even perrenial losers Seth and Evan feel uncomfortable around him. As Seth refers to him at one point, he is "the Anti-Poon." His subplot with the cops is the funniest section of the film. His extreme geekiness slowly disappearing in a haze of alcohol and firearms. Of course, he'll probably be typecast as the "so uncool he's cool" guy, but even if the rest of his career is only a tenth as funny as his performance here, he'll go far.
Evan and Seth's journey is more realistic, and honestly, a little touching. What less-than-popular guy has gone to a party, hoping that alcohol will loose some female lips and, for lack of a better term, sink some ships. I myself remember going to parties, constructing elaborate scenarios in my head whereby I might kiss a girl and/or perhaps see and maybe even touch a bare breast. Seth calls that to mind, continually referring to an elaborate plan that Evan rightly notes has never in fact been voiced aloud. The two go through a love/hate relationship that I could recall from my last year in high school.
I haven't laughed this hard at a comedy since The 40 Year Old Virgin. Like so many of Apatow's productions, I can see elements of my life in the film, making the comedy all the more poignant. Watching it again, it only gets funnier each time. A thoroughly satisfying raunchy romp.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Sony presents Superbad in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in an AVC-encoded 1080p transfer. In an attempt to evoke, I don't know, movies with overexposure, a lot of Superbad is overexposed, mostly in outdoor daytime scenes. A lot of the scenes tend to make the actors all look some kind of sickly yellow. Indoor nighttime scenes look a lot more clear, as do the sequences later in the film. Superbad was mostly shot with high definition cameras, and at times the transfer shows the technical limitations of shooting in that format. Nighttime scenes tend to have a deep drop off to black, and sometimes shadow detail gets lost. But the image is very clear and the more neutrally lit scenes have great detail.
Sony offers three lossless tracks on Superbad, an English Dolby True HD 5.1 mix, an English uncompressed PCM 5.1 mix, and a French Dolby True HD mix. The range on both the True HD and the PCM are fantastic. Not only that, but the surrounds are used in a manner that surprised me. When Seth and Evan are in a cafeteria, you can hear people chatting in the rear speakers, but it's mixed in such a way that I honestly thought there were people behind me. Same thing happened when McLovin is in the bar with the cops, or at Jules' party. For a movie that should have had a glorified stereo track, I was constantly enthralled with the mix on Superbad.
Sony has released Superbad as a two-disc special edition on Blu-ray, with all of the features in 1080p high definition.
- Commentary with Director Greg Mottola, Producer Judd Apatow, Writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and Actors Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse: This, my friends, is how you do a group commentary. There's no structure, no moderation, just pure stream of consciousness. At times, the track devolves into meaningless side conversations, but for the most part, things are pretty lucid. There is an awkward moment about halfway through where Hill and Apatow get into a fight that ends with Apatow leaving, but other than that, this is classic stuff.
- Supermeter: A BD-Java application that counts the amount of swear words used, the amount of genital references, and the amount of time the word "McLovin" is said. Pretty useless, really, and each time the counter goes up, it's accompanied by a horribly annoying sound. Thankfully, you can turn those off. The only Blu-ray exclusive, unless you count the other features being in 1080 on Blu-ray versus 480 on DVD.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes: Six deleted and extended scenes, all of them hilarious, and all in 1080p. These scenes actually look more clear than many of the scenes in the movie due to lack of post-production filters.
- Line-O-Rama: A hilarious montage of one-line improvisations from Jonah Hill and Bill Hader.
- The Semen Conversation: An extended, uncut version of the sequence where the cops explain to McLovin how real police work is not like CSI. The three constantly crack each other up.
- Gag Reel: 4 and a half minutes of gags, outtakes, and on screen pranks.
- Pineapple Express Sneak Preview: What seems to be a full scene from Pineapple Express, the upcoming Seth Rogen film starring James Franco. Fans of pot will love this clip.
- Previews: Trailers for Walk Hard, Talladega Nights, Reign Over Me, Spider-Man 3, Ghost Rider, Resident Evil: Extinction, Hostel: Part II, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and a general collection of clips.
- Cop Car Confessions: The cops played by Seth Rogen and Bill Hader escort a series of comedians in their car, including Jane Lynch, Chris Katan, Justin Long, Judd Apatow, and more. There's thirty minutes of footage here. That's longer than an episode of a sitcom after you subtract the commercials. Pretty much the whole thing is improvised, making it hit or miss, but that's a whole lot of original material.
- The Making of Superbad: A 13 minute featurette which combines snippets of interviews with behind the scenes footage. There's an awesome poster behind Apatow in his interviews that I've never seen for the movie before, which looks like an homage to 70's exploitation films.
- The Vag-Tastic Voyage: A "full episode" of the porn that Seth, Evan, and Fogel watch. Some decent nudity from actual porn starts included.
- Original Table Read 2002: Two scenes, the soccer field and the fake ID, as done at a table read. Seth Rogen reads the part of Seth, and Evan Goldberg reads for Evan. A lot of good lines that didn't make it into the final film, and hearing the writers do the reading give the performances a different energy.
- Table Read 2006: We get the soccer field/fake ID scene again, along with Seth getting hit by a car, and party sex. This one has the actual cast of the film in their respective roles. The performances are a little more start and stop due to the fact that some of the actors aren't as comfortable with the material.
- Auditions: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse's audition tapes are all available. You can see why all three got the parts. Christopher Mintz-Plasse's tape has all three actors enacting the Fake I.D. scene, and he's better than Hill or Cera. In fact, his audition is one of the best bits on the entire set.
- Michael's Voicemails From Jonah: Some very made-up voicemails from Jonah Hill to Michael Cera. Accompanied by humorous notes from Michael.
- Snakes On Jonah: A bizarre clip where Jonah is covered by various creepy crawlies. I can't even figure out what the context is meant to be for this. Hill looks genuinely creeped out, though.
- Dancing Title Sequence: Footage of the shoot for the opening credit sequence with Michael Cera and Jonah Hill dancing.
- TV Safe Lines: The cast shoots some "TV safe" versions of their scenes. Jonah Hill gives his thoughts on the process: "Stop being such a pussy, America!" Paul Rudd quickly appears with one or two suggestions of clean lines.
- Eveyone Hates Michael Cera: A six minute joke featurette about how nobody liked Michael Cera on the set. The joke goes pretty far, and Cera does a great job of playing completely clueless as everyone rags on him.
- On Set Diaries: 17 minutes of behind the scenes footage and interviews. Some of the footage is recycled from previous featurettes, but a lot of it is brand new. Much of it is tongue-in-cheek.
- The Music of Superbad: A look into the recording sessions for the music in the film, played by funk legends Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, and Catfish Collins.
- Press Junket Meltdown: The final feature on the set is a short fake interview where a journalist (who for some reason I think might be Edgar Wright) pesters Michael Cera and Jonah Hill with rude questions, prompting Jonah to explode.
Superbad is the raunchiest and dirtiest comedy of 2007. Michael Cera and Jonah Hill make star turns interpreting a brilliant and heartfelt script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. This Blu-ray disc features great picture (although the film's stylization might turn some people off) and sound, and hours upon hours of hilarious special features. Are you ready to get down and be Superbad? Highly Recommended.
Note: The images included in this review are not representative of the image quality of the Blu-ray disc.
Daniel Hirshleifer is the High Definition Editor for DVD Talk.