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Two Fine Comedies, Not the Least Alike in Dignity

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 Rogen 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.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.