Two Fine Comedies, Not the Least Alike in Dignity Sweetly smutty Superbad is all about raunch; Brit-farce Death at a Funeral is all about stiff-upper-lip reserve. Both push the envelope, and even the English one has little to do with propriety.
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Two Fine Comedies, Not the Least Alike in Dignity

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Two Fine Comedies, Not the Least Alike in Dignity


Arts & Life

Two Fine Comedies, Not the Least Alike in Dignity

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Two comedies arrive in movie theaters today: "Death at a Funeral," an English farce - it's all about British reserve, and "Superbad," a high school comedy that's all about raunch.

Bob Mondello says both films pushed the envelope when it comes to propriety.

BOB MONDELLO: In "Superbad," two 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. Wow, thinks chubby, porn-obsessed Seth. Whoa, thinks shy, college-bound Evan. So swept up are they by their good fortune that they promise to bring the booze. And when their nasal buddy Fogel gets a fake I.D., everything seems set. Until they see the I.D.

(Soundbite of movie "Superbad")

Mr. MICHAEL CERA (Actor): (As Evan) McLovin? What kind of a stupid name is that, Fogel? What, are you trying to be an Irish R&B singer?

Mr. CHRISTOPHER MINTZ-PLASSE (Actor): (As Fogell) Have you actually ever met anyone named McLovin?

Mr. JONAH HILL (Actor): (As Seth) It doesn't even have a first name. It just says McLovin.

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) This I.D. says you're 25 years old. Why wouldn't you just put 21, man?

Mr. MINTZ-PLASSE: (As Fogell) How many 21-year-olds do you think there are in this town?

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) I mean, it's up to you, Fogel. This guy is either going to think, here's another kid with a fake I.D. or here is McLovin, the 25-year-old Hawaiian organ donor. Okay? So what's it's going to be?

Mr. MINTZ-PLASSE: (As Fogell) I am McLovin.

MONDELLO: 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, 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 his favorite freaks and geeks to explore the mindset of the 18-year-old virgin. "Knocked Up" star Seth Rogan and his buddy Evan Goldberg reportedly started working on this script when they were 13, which explains the many penis jokes they've given the on-screen Seth and Evan.

Joshua Hill and Michael Cera play the parts with every hormone 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 leaving behind, that makes the film.

What makes "Death at a Funeral" is a 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.

(Soundbite of movie "Death at a Funeral")

Mr. MATTHEW MacFADYEN (Actor): (As Daniel) Who's this?

Mr. BRENDAN O'HEA (Actor): (As the undertaker) Pardon me?

Mr. MacFADYEN: (As Daniel) That's not my father.

Mr. O'HEA: (As the undertaker) Oh, they've taken the wrong one.

MONDELLO: Things go downhill from there because shortly after the right coffin arrives, so does the family - everyone from self-dramatizing mom to an annoyingly successful brother 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 where her brother hides his LSD.

And all of that is as nothing next to the four-foot-tall American stranger who shows up with a sheaf of photos.

(Soundbite of movie "Death at a Funeral")

Mr. PETER DINKLAGE (Actor): (As Peter) Oh, here - yes. Here we are in the - at a fancy costume party in Kensington. That's your dad dressed up as a Roman centurion.

Mr. MacFADYEN: (As Daniel) Sir, in what capacity were you actually friends with my dad? I mean, I don't mean - I don't mean to be - but he never mentioned you to me. And yet you have those pictures where you're going around like a...

MONDELLO: And suddenly, the furnishings in his father's study come into focus -paintings, statues, a lot of them male and nude.

(Soundbite of movie "Death at a Funeral")

Mr. MacFADYEN: (As Daniel) Oh god.

MONDELLO: Director Frank Oz builds the film's brightly funereal catastrophes to Monty Pythonish excess. Unlike "Superbad," where the laughs spring from real life, none of "Death at a Funeral" is terribly plausible. But happily, audiences won't mind much. The rules these two movies play by are different: one, a comedy of manners; the other, most definitely not.

I'm Bob Mondello.

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