2007Director: Greg Mottola
Cast: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
ake no mistake: twenty years from now, kids will be sneaking copies of Superbad down to their basements just as children of the 90s gathered to enjoy the vulgar pleasures of raunch-com classics like Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds. The only difference is that Superbad isn’t just one of the funniest movies ever made; it’s also a surprisingly resonant tale of male friendship and an honest, authentic paean to the painfully formative years known as high school. It reminds us that, through all the humiliating and uncomfortable moments that kids suffer between the ages of 15 and 18, the bonds of camaraderie only grow stronger, allowing for the eventual exorcism of our insecurities as we steal off to college. That’s what Superbad is really all about. That and dick jokes. Lots of dick jokes.
Like Woody Allen and Albert Brooks, Superbad scribes Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg understand that humor is the best antidote to the existential horrors of modern life. But what Rogen and Goldberg also realize is that we’re not all master satirists, so most of us have to make dick jokes to get by. Some days, the promise of a good dick joke is the only thing that gets us out of bed in the morning. If Steve Carrel’s Andy from another Judd Apatow production, 40 Year Old Virgin, is guilty of putting the “pussy on a pedestal,” then Seth and Evan (both the writers and the lead characters that share their names) do the same with the penis.
Unlike most “geek-centric” comedies, in Superbad, there’s no rival fraternity or arch-nemesis to foil. There’s only the humble teenage escapade of buying booze with a fake ID and getting to a party on the last night of high school (a goal that has its own sense of urgency since Seth, Evan, and their decidedly nerdier friend, Fogel, seem to never get invited). But that’s not to say that they sit at home doing logic problems every night either. They drink, smoke, and vomit with the best of them. The only real distinction is that their adventures rarely lead to them hopping into bed with the popular cheerleader or the cute emo mix-tape maiden at night’s end.
It’s that hope of post-party coitus that impels the three heroes on their harrowing quest, and the manner in which that hope plays itself out on a multitude of levels is surprisingly complex for a “teen sex comedy.” The journey itself is more surreal than the trips taken by other “last night in high school” films like Dazed and Confused and American Graffiti, and yet nothing in Superbad is really outside the realm of possibility either. The boundaries of believability are definitely bent (especially when Bill Hader and Rogen get thrown into the mix as two hilariously puerile police officers) but thankfully the film’s credibility is never outright broken, allowing the film’s more emotional elements to fully resonate.
But while Rogen and Goldberg’s absurdly crass script goes a long way in deciding Superbad’s success or failure, it ultimately comes down to the breakout performances of the three leads. Michael Cera, having grown up on the set of the brilliant television series “Arrested Development,” has learned from some of the best comedians around. With the role of Evan, he further embodies the nervous innocence of youth, inspiring laughs both individually and as a foil to Jonah Hill’s fantastically obnoxious Seth. Meanwhile, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fogel (if you’ve seen the trailer, you know him as “McLovin”) creates a hilarious cult icon from equal parts paralyzing awkwardness and intrepid abandon.
Like the reckless little brother to Knocked Up, Superbad is a glorious picture of youthful exuberance that is best served with cheap beer and good pot. This is the one of the most relentlessly joyous films I’ve seen in a long time, sitting comfortably in the Judd Apatow canon, which, these days, is saying a lot. The fact that it also holds its own in the canon of great coming-of-age films (Dazed, Graffiti, Almost Famous) is a credit to the Apatow clan’s ability to subvert genre conventions while speaking a language that is palatable to both the frat-house and the art-house. But I’ve already wasted enough of your time. Go see Superbad, get drunk in the parking lot beforehand, and prepare to laugh your ass off like you’re eighteen again.
Superbad is currently playing in wide release.
By: David Holmes
Published on: 2007-08-27