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Monday, August 27, 2007


By now you’ve probably heard about how great SUPERBAD is — and for the most part I agree with the majority of the critics — so I’ll spare you the details save for the plot in a nutshell: two best friends and a dorky classmate find themselves saddled with the task of obtaining $100 worth of liquor for a party thrown by a hot girl that one of them likes, and using that catalyst for a springboard all manner of insanity ensues. It’s basically every last-shot-at-high school-fun-before-we-go-to-college story you’ve ever seen, only with the raunch factor amped up to the the level one would expect from a post-AMERICAN PIE (1999) outing for the genre, but it’s a lot funnier than AMERICAN PIE and, with the very notable exception of the two most irresponsible and over-the-top cops seen onscreen in years, SUPERBAD is a dead-on accurate look at what suburban American teenagers, especially the males, can get up to when having their youthful adventures.

That said, I’d like to discuss the thing that really puts SUPERBAD into the firmament of teen movie classics: the awesome majesty that is McLovin.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays Fogell, the very definition of the word “Nerd” and a truly grating presence that one would avoid in the halls of the high school when not kicking his dorky ass on general principle.

Even the other two main characters who hang out with him on a regular basis can’t stand him much, but that all changes when he acquires a fake ID that identifies him a twenty-five-year-old resident of Hawaii named “McLovin.” No first name, just McLovin, and as if that weren’t ridiculous enough he doesn’t look a day over fifteen despite being about two months shy of becoming a college freshman. Upon adopting the McLovin moniker, Fogell is pressed into doing the actual purchasing of the required liquor, but the instant he whips out his ID and actually convinces the cashier of his alleged age, the poor dork gets sucker-punched by a thug who makes off the with the contents of the cash register. When a pair of goofball cops arrive to investigate, they take him under their wing for what turns into what can only be called a young heterosexual male’s perfect fantasy night come true; over the next few hours McLovin hangs out and drinks in a bar with his newfound policeman pals, collars a drunk and disorderly bum, gets chauffeured around town in a police car with the cops getting him and themselves more and more wasted with each passing hour,

hooks up with the other two characters — who ditched him when they thought the cops were arresting him and ended up having their own adventures — makes it to the big party with the liquor he purchased, gets (mostly) laid by the cute redhead he’d admired from school — lets put it this way: he gets it in, but the cops bust the party and while searching the house for underage drinkers they bust in on McLovin getting’ some, which causes his very willing partner to flee, for which the cops are deeply apologetic — leaves the party in a style that makes him an instant legend, and finishes the evening by helping the cops torch their own now-totaled squad car while using it for target practice.

If all of this sounds incredibly puerile and sophomoric, it certainly is, but its hilarity lies in the telling and the making-of-an-urban-legend nature of McLovin’s saga; Joseph Campbell — the late sage behind THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES and THE POWER OF MYTH — would have had a field day with this modern heroic journey that traces a callow youth’s progression from inexperience to capable adulthood and coolness within the space of one night’s whirlwind of adventure, complete with wise (?) guide-figures in the form of the fun-loving and somewhat insane cops, a couple of monsters (the thug and the bum), the getting of all sorts of wisdom, and actually winning the girl of his dreams. That’s the stuff of the straight-up, classically defined heroic journey archetype, and it was fun to see it told in such a way; it actually eclipses the more realistic exploits of Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins) in DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993), and as that was a hell of a story in its own right, that’s something to be proud of, Jack! And since the SUPERBAD is making a mint at the box office, it’ll probably spawn a shitty sequel and that would be a shame because the magic of McLovin is not something that can just be shat out by the studio assembly line.

McLovin: one superbad motherfucker.

As for the rest of the flick, SUPERBAD is a very solid piece of entertainment, but its raunchiness reminded me of the anarchic and unbelievably tasteless stories found in issues of NATIONAL LAMPOON that I adored when I was growing up (or not), a cornucopia of humor that was the antithesis of everything PC. So if you aren’t of a sensibility that can handle foul dialogue, drunken tomfoolery, gross-out bodily humor — most notably the felonious and hilarious misuse of one of the protagonist’s legs that’s sure to polarize the women in the audience as to whether the gag was funny or not — and young people painfully embarrassing themselves, then you might want to give SUPERBAD a miss. Otherwise, get ready to smile at a film that just may drag you on a beer-soaked, hormonally charged trip down memory lane.


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