2007; Director: Greg Mottola; Writers: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
With Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Seth Rogen
Available Dec. 4, List Price $34.95
The gang's all here on the commentary track for the DVD of the summer's top high-school comedy. Rogen, Goldberg, Mottola, Hill, Cera and Mintz-Plesse join executive producer Judd Apatow, who fathered the raunch-style genre by writing and directing The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. What seven guys to talk about the movie, and no females? Actually, yes. Apatow brought his nine-year-old daughter Maude to the bi-coastal taping session. "No cursing on the New York side, please," he admonishes those closest to him.
That's the richest joke on this "2-disc unrated extended edition." The movie, which opened up the world of cloistered teen fanboys to a whole other universe of dark delicacies and sexual appetites, is a 2hr., four-letter festival of adolescent male yearning, virtually all of it expressed verbally. The deleted-scenes extras and the commentary track contain more groin-ocentric talk than in the movie that may have inspired its title, the 1999 porno video Superbad Triple Sex Bill. Even if her father shielded her from part of the conversation, little Maude got an earful.
As is known, Rogen and Goldberg, still in their mid-20s, began writing this script when they had just hit their teens. The piece was at least loosely autobiographical; they lent their own names to the main characters. (Hill plays the mouthy, pudgy Seth, Cera the quieter Evan, both high school seniors determined to lose their virginity while maintaining their uncomfortably close friendship. Their adversary and abettor is a criminally nerdy kid named Fogel, whom first-time actor Mintz-Plesse incarnates with a goony brilliance.) Apatow saw the script back in 2000, when Rogen, then 18, was a regular in Apatow's Freaks and Geeks TV series. "After 40 Year Old Virgin came out," Rogen says on a brief making-of extra, "I guess our filthy brand of humor became somewhat more mainstream."
He keeps the filth, and the humor, percolating as the funniest, most insistent contributor to the track. He and his pals explain the movie's menstrual-blood gag, the intricacies of "turkey tapping," "vagtastic voyages" and other elements of the Apatow ethic. Some of it's funny, quite a bit not. If I were to relate the best gags on a family website, I could get arrested; or I'd have to euphemize every punch line into pee-pee sperm peanuts virginia. Suffice to say that the prevailing tone is of boys in a locker room, working hard to impress one another with jokes about gonadal excesses. Sterner listeners may tisk, thinking "Lenny Bruce died for their sins." Yet it has an anachronistic air: the locker room could be at the Friars Club.
Stuff you learn: Because of child labor laws, the boy playing the eight-year-old Seth in flashbacks could not be shown sketching penises; the company had to hire "an older woman with tiny hands" "a 90-year-old Asian woman" to digit-double for the kid. (The phalluses were actually drawn by Goldberg's brother David.) Similarly, the 17-year-old Mintz-Plesse (whose name rhymes with rinse, floss) was barred from watching some of the naughtier scenes; "I had to literally get kicked out of the room." But he did get to shoot a bedroom tryst, and when he returned to school he was able to boast, "I had a girl suckin' on my finger!"
The one note of indignation is struck when someone mentions Stephen Farber's Hollywood Reporter review of the film, which speculates that Seth and Evan don't consummate their homoerotic affection for each other because of the underlying prudery of American movies. (You'll find another take on the gay subtext of guy comedies in my original review of Superbad: http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1653918,00.html.) This sends the group into a sarcastic rage, especially Rogen and Goldberg after all, it's their teenage lives on the screen. "It needs an end like Shortbus," says one, alluding to the last year's porno comedy that climaxed in a hard-core grope. Yeah, snarks another, "I was disappointed that Laurel and Hardy never [something]ed."
Come on, Seth and Evan. Lighten up or fess up. You've made your name and your millions with bedroom and bathroom humor. Now it's time to come out of the closet.