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Naughty nerds and vulgar virgins

Ted AlvarezVail, CO Colorado

Okay, okay: I’m really sorry, Mom. I’m really, really sorry, Grandma. But the extremely profane, anatomically exaggerated vernacular the main characters of ‘Superbad’ employ pretty much rings true as the way my friends and I spoke in high school. I suspect the same is true for many others of my generation. Some of us (gulp) might even still talk that way…occasionally.”Superbad”‘s great comedic triumph is in capturing the way young males really talk – not some Hollywood approximation, but the real thing. The talented comedic stars of the film aren’t far off from that age group, but I suspect that along with their obvious improvisational gifts, screenwriters Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg fought to retain every shred of detention-worthy dialogue. As they started the script back in high school themselves, they may have actually written some of it in detention.”Superbad” follows three gawky, nerdy teens as they embark on that most hallowed quest of high school comedies: Get laid before you get to college. But the film differs from nearly every teen sex comedy before it in that, while it’s nominally about the pursuit of the opposite sex, it’s really about the relationship between the boys as they struggle to grow past adolescence into an adulthood that might not have room for their deep bonds and rampant geekery. From this unspoken premise, “Superbad” grows a heart you might not expect from a film that probably spends 1/3 of its running time describing female genitalia.Sensitive Evan (Michael Cera) and manic Seth (Jonah Hill) believe they have one last chance to bed the objects of their affection at a graduation party, but there’s a catch: They’ve been entrusted with procuring alcohol for the entire celebration. Utterly inexperienced with the prospect, they reluctantly employ their friend Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and his fake ID to purchase the hooch. If Evan and Seth are merely nerdy, Fogell is the ne plus ultra of geeks. He looks frail enough to blow away in the wind, and every attempt he makes at sounding cool comes out as horribly bastardized gangsta speak, made worse by his strangled whine of a voice. The boys chances of scoring women and wine worsen when they discover that Fogell chose the solo moniker of “McLovin” for his fake ID. When Fogell/McLovin finally amps up the courage to enter a liquor store, he nearly succeeds but is promptly punched out in a liquor store robbery. Cops arrive on the scene, and the scheme would seem to end there.But of course it doesn’t. The cops (“Knocked Up”‘s Seth Rogen and Bill Hader) take McLovin on a wilder ride than any high school party, and Evan and Seth crash a scary adult party in a desperate search for booze. Along the way, more obstacles are placed in our heroes’ randy way, friendships are tested and everyone copes, with hilarious results and varying success.While Greg Mottola directed “Superbad,” Judd Apatow of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” produced, and his stamp is all over the film. Because the central quest concerns teen sex and not fatherhood or a meaningful adult relationship, the movie loses a bit of moral high ground, but hints at the same type of intelligence and deeper meaning run underneath the entire film.Hill and Cera’s comedic style are vastly different, but surprisingly they mesh well, and you never believe the boys are anything but the best of friends. Hill is given some of the films funniest lines, but Cera’s mastery of the awkward pause and his stammering, scared-of-his-own shadow delivery ensure that he runs away with the film. It helps that Evan remains sincere and well-intentioned throughout, while Seth sort of acts like a prick until the end. Mintz-Plasse, a nonactor who won a national talent search, makes an auspicious debut in a go-for-broke performance that redefines the meanings of both geek and badass. The film suffers a little from Apatow and Rogen’s usual weakness: His study of the male species is so natural and intuitive in both humor and sensitivity that it can’t help but fall short when it comes to the ladies in the movie. We’re given ideas and clues that they’re more than props, and hints of real personality and character shine through, but they’re soon relegated to the sidelines so the boys can wax philosophical about their hoo-has. The day that Apatow and company create a comedy as raucously funny, raunchy and insightful as this one about both sexes will be momentous indeed. But like the protagonists of “Superbad,” maybe they just need to love each other a little bit less before they can approach handling the opposite sex.Arts & Entertainment writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or talvarez@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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