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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt


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Except that the heroes act much more like high school sophomores than seniors, even nerdy seniors,Superbad, doesn’t cop out the way the other 2007 comedy that shared a number of creators and cast members, Knocked Up did, and is a riotously amusing nighttown adventure, similar in a lot of ways to American Graffiti but a great deal less innocent. Actually, the movie comes on a little too strong at first, at least on the Sony Home Entertainment Unrated Extended Edition, but once it establishes its territory, it settles into an appealing display of slapstick, romance and bullseye humor about the follies of youth. Running 118 minutes, most of the film concerns three underage friends who have been handed the task of obtaining and transporting liquor to a party, and the various separations and digressions they undergo before they achieve their goal. The permutations are at once familiar but freshly imagined, so that as each cliché approaches, it always takes an unexpected turn. Not only is the talented cast consistently believable-again, except that they seem to be playing their parts at least two years too young-but their comedic timing is as precise as it is seemingly natural. The ‘hot’ girls the heroes lust after are not being played by starlets in their twenties, but are, instead, normal looking, everyday girls who just happened to be a tad bit more emotionally mature and self confident than the heroes are. There is a great deal of truth in the behavior of everyone involved, and it enhances the humor all the more.

The theatrical version ran 113 minutes, and the Extended footage often continues improvisations at the expense of pacing, though once in a while they delve deeper into naughty territory, as well. The presentation is in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 1.78:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. The film was shot on hi-def video, and so the lighting creates vague, yellow blotches on fleshtones and brings out every unshaved whisker in close-ups (even the Columbia logo is grainy). If this were Days of Heaven, it wouldn’t be such a good thing, but for Superbad, it’s no big deal and could actually be reinforcing the film’s irreverent spirit. The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound has a serviceable dimensionality and plenty of power. There are alternate French and Spanish tracks in 5.1 Dolby and optional English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Included as well are 12 minutes of deleted and alternate footage, much of it coming from the continual improvisations that were facilitated by shooting on video. There is another 10 minutes of improvisations, set in the back of a cop car, that have nothing to do directly with the film and involve various cast members and visitors to the shoot. Also featured is a funny 4-minute blooper reel, a passable 13 minute production featurette, a minute-long ‘porn film’ that is glimpsed during the movie, an interesting 5-minute table read from several years before the project got the green light, a 3-minute piece in which one of the stars tries to learn some dance moves for a scene that was eventually altered for the better, and an ill-paced 4-minute promo for a forthcoming dope comedy from the same filmmakers.

Sony has also released a 2-Disc Unrated Extended Edition, which isolates the film on the first platter and carries the above special features over to the second platter, along with an additional 5 minutes of deleted scenes, an additional 24 minutes of cop car improvisations, a 23-minute table read from the eve of the production, 13 minutes of audition footage, about 3 minutes of what are supposedly genuine phone messages left by one of the stars for one of the other stars, 18 minutes of good behind-the-scenes footage from across the length of the shoot, 12 minutes of jokier behind-the-scenes material, a cute little 3-minute piece about shooting a ‘television’ version of the dialog, and a good 13-minute segment on the classic funk musicians who reunited to do the film’s musical score.

Both releases come with an exuberant commentary track from producer Judd Apatow, director Greg Mottola, writers Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogan (Rogan also has a major part in the film), and stars Jonah Hill and Michael Cera. (The commentary is supported by optional English and Spanish subtitles.) They talk a lot about developing the story, their experiences shooting it (using the digital video, they took less breaks than a normal film shoot would, and had less time to relax), and what they think is funny in the film, but along with entertaining the listener on a visceral level, they also supply legitimate insight to their filmmaking process.

For a scene that involved drawings of penises: “Maybe we can talk about the enormous legal complications that went along with getting this scene, of all scenes, to the big screen.”

“Mottola really rocked this.”

“I’m very happy with this scene. We had to have every single drawing approved by the legal department and we would get notes back saying things like, ‘Too big.'”

“‘Too veiny.'”

“I couldn’t even look at them. I was seventeen when we were drawing them, so legally, I could not look at the drawings. I had to get kicked out of the room every time people needed the drawings.”

“I know all you would hear is uproarious laughter from down the hall.”

“I would purposely go, ‘This is the best thing I’ve ever seen! This is the most fun day of my life.'”

“Every now and then, we would just drop one for Chris’ sake.”

“If we ever wanted Chris to leave the room, we would just scribble a [penis] on a piece of paper.”

“I had so many meetings about this because we had to have a girl look at it, a little girl. So if you can imagine me in a room with about four or five lawyers debating what the California labor laws are for looking at a drawing, and ultimately we had to find an older woman with tiny hands. And the other issue was, can someone look at it, where the kids don’t see it but the actor sees it, like over their shoulder, so we had to storyboard and debate every single shot. It was pretty brutal.”

July 10, 2008

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon