Two Fine Comedies, Not the Least Alike in Dignity

Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Aviva shake it like they wanna break it. i i

hide captionOnce he was merely Fogell; now he's McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and he's not afraid to get his groove on with the school's hottest girl — played by a young actress known by the lively mononym Aviva.

Melissa Moseley/Columbia Pictures
Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Aviva shake it like they wanna break it.

Once he was merely Fogell; now he's McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and he's not afraid to get his groove on with the school's hottest girl — played by a young actress known by the lively mononym Aviva.

Melissa Moseley/Columbia Pictures

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I Am McLovin

 

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Daisy Donovan and Kris Marshall looking terribly worried. i i

hide captionDaisy Donovan and Kris Marshall in Frank Oz's stiff-upper-lip comedy Death at a Funeral.

Sidney Kimmel Entertainment
Daisy Donovan and Kris Marshall looking terribly worried.

Daisy Donovan and Kris Marshall in Frank Oz's stiff-upper-lip comedy Death at a Funeral.

Sidney Kimmel Entertainment

Two potential laff-fests arrive in movie theaters today: Superbad, a high-school comedy that's all about raunch, and Death at a Funeral, a farce from England that's all about British reserve. Both films push the envelope, though, when it comes to propriety.

In Superbad, a pair of teen geeks, painfully aware of their virginity as they head into the last week of high school, get invited to a party with the cool kids. Omigod, thinks chubby, foul-mouthed Seth, who gets his notions of such gatherings from Internet porn. Woooooh, thinks college-bound Evan, who can barely bring himself to talk to girls at school.

So swept up are they by their good fortune that they promise to bring the booze. Still, when their nasal buddy Fogel gets a fake ID, everything seems set.

Until they see the ID, a Hawaiian driver's license that lists his name as ... McLovin.

Let's call this Porky's territory, soon to merge with Fast Times at American-Pie High or something to that effect. It's alcohol-fueled, potty-mouthed, frequently gross — and as centrally sweet as you'll expect once you note Judd Apatow's name in the credits.

The man who gave us The 40-Year-Old Virgin here allows the freaks and geeks in his informal rep company to explore the mindset of the 18-year-old virgin; Knocked Up star Seth Rogan and his co-writer buddy Evan Goldberg reportedly started working on this script when they were themselves 13, which explains the many penis jokes they've given the onscreen Seth and Evan.

Joshua Hill and Michael Cera play them with every hormonally sensitized nerve a-vibrating, but it's the disconnect between what comes out of the mouths of these Superbad pups and what's going on in their heads — where they cling desperately to the innocence they're about to leave behind — that makes the film.

Secrets, Lies and Laughs at a Family 'Funeral'

What makes Death At a Funeral is a very different sort of disconnect: You know these particular last rites will not be going quite as planned by the end of the opening credits. That's when the coffin arrives and the bereaved son gets his first look at the deceased — who's not, due to a funeral-home mix-up, the father he was expecting to mourn.

Things go downhill from there, because shortly after the right coffin arrives, so does the family. Everyone from self-dramatizing Mom and annoyingly successful brother Robert to cousin Martha, who's using this occasion to introduce her very nervous fiance to the family. (He might be less nervous if she hadn't tried to calm him with pills from the Valium bottle in which her brother hides his LSD.)

And all that is as nothing next to the four-foot-tall American who shows up with a sheaf of photos: When the son realizes that he doesn't know the short gentleman, but that the photos seem to be documenting a rather close and rather social relationship, well — let's just say that suddenly the classically handsome paintings and statues in his father's study have never seemed quite so male, or quite so obviously nude.

Director Frank Oz builds the film's brightly funereal catastrophes to Monty Pythonish excess; unlike the laughs in Superbad, which spring from real life, nothing in Death at a Funeral is terribly plausible, but happily, audiences won't mind much. The rules these movies play by are different: One's a comedy of manners, the other most definitely not.

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