Movie review by Greg Carlson
“Superbad” marks another successful collaboration from the collective that orbits around Hollywood’s current comedy golden boy Judd Apatow. Co-written, co-starring and co-executive produced by Seth Rogen, who helped make a major hit out of Apatow’s recent “Knocked Up,” “Superbad” is targeted at a younger core audience sure to keep cash registers ringing throughout back-to-school season. The movie’s clever balancing of take-no-prisoners vulgarity and self-deprecating introspection marks it as a generous cut above most of its teen movie competition. In addition to the appealing lead performances of Michael Cera and Jonah Hill, “Superbad” marks the screen debut of scene-stealing Christopher Mintz-Plasse, a pitch perfect goofball who will have a devil of a time avoiding being typecast as an uber-geek.
Rogen penned the screenplay with pal Evan Goldberg, commencing work on an early draft when the two were newly minted teenagers. Cera and Hill play Evan and Seth, best pals facing the end of high school with the daunting prospect that they will not be attending the same college. To make matters worse, third wheel Fogell (Mintz-Plasse), who irritates Seth to no end, will be rooming with Evan at Dartmouth. A few weeks prior to graduation, the boys have an opportunity, at least in their own minds, to play smooth heroes when attractive classmate Jules (Emma Stone) enlists the fellows to purchase alcohol for a celebratory bash. The best-laid plans come apart at the seams, however, once Fogell reveals his ridiculous fake I.D., which depicts him as a twenty-five year old Hawaiian organ donor with the single moniker “McLovin.”
Like “American Pie,” “Superbad” revolves around a testosterone-fueled quest of high school seniors seeking to attain some degree of carnal knowledge prior to graduation. In fact, there are few landmark teen comedies “Superbad” doesn’t reference or acknowledge, and various elements and scenes echo titles as far ranging as “American Graffiti,” “Dazed and Confused,” “Weird Science” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Fans of those movies will likely find much to enjoy in “Superbad,” which incorporates a catalogue of recognizable situations encompassing teenage rites of passage. Director Greg Mottola handles the performers with finesse, particularly capitalizing on Hill and Cera’s comic timing.
Once the simple plot is set into motion, the movie cuts back and forth between a storyline involving Fogell/McLovin’s post-liquor store misadventures with a pair of outrageously incompetent police officers (played by Rogen and Bill Hader), and Seth and Evan’s long and winding road to secure booze for the evening’s big party. While the cops end up behaving along the lines of the Keystone, “Super Troopers,” and “Police Academy” variety, Seth and Evan find themselves in equally bizarre situations. The movie spends a little more time than it ought to getting to the party, and older viewers might grow impatient for the payoff sequence.
On the downside, “Superbad” plays it entirely safe as a “guy movie.” Despite its welcome testimonials to adolescent anxieties, the movie focuses solely on the male point of view, leaving its handful of bright and talented female performers without much to do beyond fuel the lust of Seth, Evan, and Fogell. That is too bad, since the girls in “Superbad” are played by smart, promising performers who prove every bit as interesting as Seth and Evan in their few scenes together. In the end, however, “Superbad” reveals the depth of love that Evan and Seth feel for one another, another example of the comically homoerotic “bromance” that elicits nervous recognition from scads of close young buddies in the audience.
This review was originally published in the High Plains Reader the week of 8/20/07.