Superbad is probably as crass as any other movie in its genre, if not more so, but it’s got heart enough to make the perversion seem charming. An awkward teen friendship movie is not original by any stretch, but Michael Cera and Jonah Hill bring loads of spirit to the fore, playing the horny but desperately naive high schoolers just about to graduate with muster, while newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse brings a new level of geekiness to the table. This is one to watch once, if for nothing else, the high laugh-per-minute count.
Early scenes set the tone of the movie, giving viewers a level of vulgarity that softens moments of outright grossness later in the film. Foul language and frank conversation of sexual desires between the two teenage boys is a bar of low humor. But there’s more than just lewd talk and booze jokes.
Evan (Michael Cera) is a shy, chivalrous type who hasn’t had the courage to ask out Becca (Martha MacIsaac), even though they’re about to graduate and he’s heading to Dartmouth for college. Seth (Jonah Hill) is over-appreciative of his penis and is dying to take Jules (Emma Stone) for his own. When their friend Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), an unabashed ubernerd with delusions of hip hop, shows them his new fake ID, showing him as a 25-year old organ donor from Hawaii with the unlikely name McLovin, Seth and Evan make it their mission to bring alcohol to the party, lose their virginity, and become the “regret hookup” for the girls they lust after. This leads them into encounters with the cops, creepy pedophiles, and confrontations with each other over unspoken issues in their friendship.
The side story deals with two cops (Seth Rogan and Bill Hader) as they question McLovin about a liquor store robbery in which he is suckerpunched. They end up taking McLovin around with them, showing him the insider’s view of what being a cop is like, but their true motives become apparent only toward the end, as they open up to McLovin about their desires to show they can still have a good time even while being hated authority figures. Their story is really Seth and Evan’s story as well, because it’s about growing up and learning how to act as an adult, even when you still just want to act and feel like a kid.
Superbad was written by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg when they were in high school, to counteract the teen movies they couldn’t identify with and to show off their comedic muster. The film performs admirably at both, giving us a story that is both shallow and heartfelt, vulgar and funny, but with a message that isn’t just saccharine Hallmark nonsense. Here, friends learn to really and truly talk to each other about their fears and insecurities, about their desires, and the love they share for each other, despite all their flaws.
With genuine and genuinely funny performances from the entire cast, a pretty sweet soundtrack, and a smart script, Superbad is consistently enjoyable. It’s not a movie you necessarily need to see more than once, but it’s not something you should miss.
Fringe Rating: out of 5