Superbad: A Fine Bromance

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Melissa Moseley / Columbia Pictures

Seth, played by Jonah Hill (left), and Evan, Michael Cera, in Superbad.

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A few caveats, then, before I go ranting on like the crank at the christening. I'm not a prude. I enjoy a good dirty joke, including more than a few in Knocked Up and Superbad. In my time I've praised ribald comedies (Clerks comes immediately to mind) and male-bonding frolics (Sideways). I don't mind the Apatow movies; I'm not trying to make anyone feel guilty for liking them more than I do. I just wonder why they've become the template for popular and critically acclaimed comedy, and why guy-guy is just about the only kind around.

I guess I have to say that, like most other liberal New York heterosexuals I'm a card-carrying homophiliac; so in calling the films closet-gay, I'm not saying that's a bad thing. It just strikes me as a dominant trend in the year's comedies (and action films, like 300 and Spider-Man 3).

Chuck & Larry, which opened four weeks ago, has already earned more than $100 million at the domestic box office; this is Sandler's sixth consecutive year with a comedy that reached that healthy number. The movie is about two hetero firefighters — Sandler as Chuck and Kevin James as Larry — who pretend to be homosexual because, the script says, Larry can then get a better insurance policy for his kids. But it's really because the film wants to indulge in both gay propaganda and gay bashing. Larry, still grieving over a wife three years dead, is the more evolved of the two; he feels no threat from the queer agenda, nor much interest in it. It's Chuck who has problems even being considered gay. At their wedding, Larry is willing to exchange a perfunctory kiss; Chuck socks him. I now pronounce you Homo and Phobia.

The film then spends most of its time trying to cure Chuck of his animosity toward gays. He attends a gay ball dressed as Count Dracula and befriends a tough cop who's secretly gay. Finally he convinces his macho pals in the firehouse, who had turned on him and Larry, that gay ain't so bad. The "gay" firemen's presumed crimes against nature matter less than their membership in the anti-arson brotherhood; camaraderie is the straight version of gay pride.


In Superbad, inattentively directed by Greg Mottola, the quasi-gay subtext is so obvious, it's the love that dares to shriek its name. What I identified as guy-necology in my review of Knocked Up blossoms into gay-necology here.

Superbad was written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, his boyhood pal from Vancouver; he says they started the script when they were 13. The film has obvious autobiographical elements, beyond the writers' naming the main characters after themselves and setting it in their senior year in high school, when Goldberg got into Dartmouth and Rogen didn't. That's what happens to Evan and Seth in the movie.

Nothing Krafft-Ebing about separation anxiety, or, in Seth's case, Ivy envy. It's refreshing for a high school movie to acknowledge that kids can agonize as much about grades and college as they do about sex. But Seth is also jealous that Evan might be sleeping with — all right, sharing a dorm room with — their nerdiest classmate, Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who also was accepted at Dartmouth. And Seth needs to have sex with a cool girl named Jules (note: guy's name) that night, that very night, not to commune with her, or even to get orgasmic pleasure for the first time from another person, but so he can practice sexual techniques with someone he knows and be a stud at the state college he's destined for. But what the 18-year-old virgin really needs, and ends up getting, is bedtime with Evan.

One more and. Seth confesses that when he was eight he obsessively created drawings of penises. The movie ends with dozens of ornate examples of his draftsmanship.

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