Monday, August 20, 2007

review: superbad

[thank you, google image search.]

i lied, this isn't a review, because everyone knows "superbad" is funny. to find this movie less than very funny would take a considerable effort. sure, the action drags a bit in the middle, but that's the great thing about really funny movies-- who gives a fuck? when i first saw "old school," i thought, ok, that was funny, but nothing actually happened, eg, the guy who loved his wife stayed with his wife and the guy who shouldn't have been married got divorced. that's not right. while i'm the first person to admit that my college education was a waste of time, money, and brads, i did learn one thing from the late screenwriter charlie purpura that i will carry with me forever (the dude was a former tough guy from brooklyn who wrote "satisfaction" and "class," which made him senior faculty in my department. at a school i attented on purpose. and i don't even hate my parents! anyway). charlie said in class that, over the course of your screenplay, your central characters have to change, period.

keep in mind that he also once said, "have you ever really thought about feet, i mean, thought about them?", and, "have you ever been shot? it really fucking hurts!", and, "i just remember doing blow with andy mccarthy and wondering, are you fucking serious?". but the change comment a, had a context, and b, made sense, so i had to agree. when another guy in that class, a dude with a ponytail (!) that was fading back to being blonde (!!) from being pink (three strikes, asshole!), asked, "but what if the character dies?" charlie said, "that's a pretty big fucking change, isn't it?" but oh how i wish charlie had just shot him in his light pink mane. r.i.p., chuck.

anyway, nobody in "old school" changed, and that bugged me, but then i saw it the requisite 5 more times on hbo and it didn't take long before i forgot the movie had a plot at all and noticed only frank the tank, the tranquilizer dart, and luke wilson covered in ky protoplasm. i read some interview lately with judd apatow and a sampling of his ensemble, many of whom i've been obsessed with steadily since freaks and geeks was just in the promo stage, while the rest of the world was finding their amusements in larry the cable guy and scary movie 4. and mr. judd (or one of his talented harem) said that it's not about the plot of the movie, it's what you do with it. "two nerds looking for beer and trying to get laid" does not a successful pitch meeting make, but there you go. and it works. and infuriates the struggling screenwriters who are sitting at insomnia on melrose right now trying to think of some exciting new superhero/supreme court justice hybrid or a reese witherspoon romantic comedy that also bends the time/space continuum.

but none of this is the point-- i'm not writing about superbad just to call it funny (duh) or explain why funny movies get a pass in terms of storytelling, character development, and everything else (have you ever been shot?). i'm writing to just put an idea out there-- a lot of reviews of superbad, or really any recent apatowian product, dwell on the notion that these are movies by and for young dudes. as a not-that-young not-dude, i think that's horseshit, but i would like to propose the following challenge to apatow, rogen, segel, whoever gets to write the next movie-- write the screenplay with a dull sounding plot that will turn out hilarious like a guy who wants to win his girlfriend back or a pack of high school dudes who fart or whatever, write the whole thing out with your usual dude protagonist, and then when you're done, hit replace all in final draft and make the dude a girl, the girl a dude. you might have to scramble some pronouns and redistribute some boners, but otherwise, voila. did i just blow your mind.

because as admittedly afraid as all apatowians are of girls, i think that the true test of whether their comedy is universally funny, not just for young dudes, is to let the ladies get to make most of the jokes for once. because when i saw superbad, it reminded me so much of myself and my bff teeter it was insane, and we're 300 years out of high school, and dickless. it's not like there are no funny women in the apatow company-- busy phillips (story by credit on blades of glory? wtf?), sarah hagan (she was millie AND a potential slayer), carla gallo (bleeds in 2 of the last 3 apatow movies)...not to mention jennifer konner and alexandra rushfield, a writing team who worked on undeclared and also created the short-lived tv show "help me help you," on which judd apatow and seth rogen made a joint guest appearance. so it's not like they don't have each others' email addys on hand.

it's great that the roles for women in these movies are many notches above "supportive girlfriend/wife/blonde", and that, from cindy sanders to trish, the "hot girls" in the apatow universe have often been realistically hot, not 2-degrees-from-porn hot, but they've still always second banana. and i'm not saying that there's a lot of precedent for funny girl movies like this, because there's been this tendency to overcompensate when writing movies where women are funny "like men," and have them not just make dick jokes but have diarrhea in the supermarket because they got food poisoning from a tampon served with semen that had been left out in the sun too long or something. that's why i'm saying, write the thing up, change only the names, and see what happens. then see if monica keena is available (and timm sharp, too, just cause, i've got needs).

i don't know when, if ever, audiences will want to find women funny. it's not that they don't eventually, but...look at sam bee on the daily show. it's taken her much, much longer to get the off-the-bat posi audience reaction that her less-funny husband jason jones got after a month, and her jokes are just as dirty and/or, for lack of a better word, humiliating as any other correspondent (again, probably funnier-- man have they fallen off lately, ben karlin, come home!). you see a cute blonde lady, and your gut doesn't say ha ha the way it does for gorey-looking jon oliver, i get that. but when you see seth rogen, your gut probably doesn't say romantic lead, either (except if you're me-- he had me at that line in freaks an geeks when he said a tuba was like a big brass toilet).

long story short, guts are often wrong, comic sensibility isn't so radically different between genders, and if anyone can make a movie that's funny while having heart, boners, and a female lead, judd apatow can. he can-- nay, has to-- make the change. and nobody has to die.


M. said...

This is so awesome I feel like a) a terrible blogger and b) a terrible movie reviewer (well, if I can even legally call m'self that).

Clapping goes here.

sb said...

and thenx also for reminding me to tell you that i started a travel/review blog and that there's a picture of you in it. so...tada.

ps: you are a reviewer of all things, even of movie reviews themselves. meta.