August 23, 2007
Itís the law of the teen comedy universe that boys will spend their last days as high school seniors attempting to get in the pants of some long-pined-for girl. When geeky, overly self-aware boys do it, itís comedy gold. And thus, Superbad.
The friendship of Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) is so deep and all-encompassing of their lives one might be tempted to say that they are brothers, except then Sethís ogling of Evanís momís boobs would be really creepy. As it is, they do everything together ó namely, surviving the assorted indignities of high school and talking smack about stuff (girls, parties, drinking, assorted wild times) rather than facing the crippling fear of actually doing those things. Their occasional companion is the even nerdier and more socially awkward Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). His plans to get a fake ID suddenly offer Seth and Evan a brilliant getting-laid opportunity. Sethís friend Jules (Emma Stone) is having a big party and needs someone to bring booze. Seth, seeing booze-buying possibilities with Fogellís new ID, offers to provide her with all she needs, hoping that at the party he can get her drunk enough to, as he explains to Evan, make out with him despite the dramatic differences in their respective hotness levels. Evan agrees that now is Sethís chance to hook up with Jules because Jules has yet to realize that she is hot.
Evan might also win out on this deal and he impulsively promises Becca (Martha MacIsaac), the girl on whom he crushes, to buy her some gold-fleck-containing vodka. Booze + girls + girls on booze = fulfillment of their desires not to start college as virgins.
Obstacle one: Fogell does indeed get an ID, one that identifies him as a 25-year-old from Hawaii named, simply, McLovin. After Sethís initial near-stroke on realizing that all his hopes and dreams for romantic success rest on the chance that a liquor store owner will indeed sell booze to ďMcLovin,Ē the boys head to said store to attempt the sale. And here they run into Ö
Obstacle two: The police. Officers Slater (Bill Hader) and Michaels (Seth Rogen) respond to a report of a robbery at the liquor store. Seth and Evan, briefly sidetracked by (what else?) boobs, return their attention to the store to see the cop car in front and the two officers talking to ďMcLovin.Ē Not aware that their friend is a witness and not a potential criminal, Seth and Evan run off, now lacking in both booze and the money they had to buy the girl-getting libations. Itís during an argument about all this that Seth is accidentally hit by a car, introducing them to Ö
Obstacle three: Francis (Joe Lo Truglio), the extremely sketchy guy driving the car that hits Seth. Seth blackmails Francis, who has a warrant out for his arrest for some unspecified crime, into getting them some more booze, which leads the boys to a serious messed up party full of beer, yes, but also drugs and problems I canít even describe in PG-13 language that all lead to a knock-down, drag-out brawl involving a hooligan-like character played by the freaky Kevin Corrigan.
As the night wears on, more obstacles to romantic bliss appear and imperiling misadventures occur including but not limited to a drunk old-man brawler, vomit at exactly the wrong time, a burning police car, an unexpected bout of crying and a laundry-detergent-flavored cocktail. Through it all, Seth is near hysterics, desperate to find a way in, as it were, with Jules. Evan, as horrified about the events taking place around him as he is at the prospect of losing his chance with Becca, spends the evening looking like a frightened woodland animal in the minute before it bolts.
Superbad is supergrimy. From its filthy language to its sweaty stars to its increasingly beer-soaked atmosphere, Superbad does not fantasize a teeniverse where everyone is perfectly The O.C.-coiffed. Instead, everyone in Superbad, even the ďhot girls,Ē bears the kind of donít-fit-in-their-own-skin awkwardness that will make them shudder at photos of themselves a decade hence. A low level of misery coats everything, from the classroom where Seth tells the Home Ec teacher that everyone knows the subject is BS and wonít she just cut him a break already to the party where the girls seem to be trying with painful desperation to be what they think is sexy. This isnít wistful teenage nostalgia, itís a visit to high school hell.
And itís perfect.
What makes Superbad a hilarious movie about friends coming of age instead of just another cheap sex comedy is the genuineness with which it tells every part of the story. Seth might unleash a barrage of obscenities that make most of his lines unprintable in any newspaper but itís completely true to his character. Evan might be awash in frustration about how different his scared personality is from the ďnormalĒ sex-having guy he wants to be but itís all in a very Everyman (or, at least, Everygeek) kind of way. He isnít some Urkel, heís a very recognizable variation on, like, 95 percent of teenagers.
Mintz-Plasseís Fogell-turned-McLovin is perhaps the most stereotypical teen-movie character in Superbad and yet even he feels real, like the kid who decides to damn the social structure and just work with what heís got. Iíve read that these guys ó most of whom come from the regular Judd Apatow troupe of actors (Apatow has a producer credit here), with the exception of Mintz-Plasse, who doesnít have any other credits on Internet Movie Database ó arenít blindly brilliant comic actors but simply really funny guys who get a lot of opportunities to play themselves. Maybe this is true, but they use these opportunities well. We get to see real (or at least real-looking) male friendships, with all the strangeness and sweetness that comes with such bonds. The comedy comes from something real enough that even when itís cruel or angry or bitter or outrageous it always feels true to its characters and therefore almost always is funny.
A funny teen sex comedy? Like a forgotten beer discovered in the back of the fridge, itís an unexpected treat. B+
Rated R for pervasive crude and sexual content, strong language, drinking, some drug use and a fantasy/comic violent image. Directed by Greg Mottola and written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Superbad is an hour and 54 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Sony Pictures.