Mark Reviews Movies


3 ˝ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Greg Mottola

Cast: Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bill Hader, Seth Rogen, Martha MacIsaac, Emma Stone

MPAA Rating:   (for pervasive crude and sexual content, strong language, drinking, some drug use and a fantasy/comic violent image - all involving teens)

Running Time: 1:54

Release Date: 8/17/07

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Review by Mark Dujsik

Teen comedies can be lumped into two types: the naughty, farcical variety and the sappy, sentimental reminiscence. Superbad exists in a form shared by only a few of its kind by having elements of both categories but falling into neither. It's exaggerated but not farce, and honest but not cloying. The film is rude and crude, but it's truthful about those elements, about its characters, and, above all, about the experience of being young and stupid. You remember the times: Two beers in the hands were better than one in the bucket. Everyone else thought those other guys were cool, but, deep down, you knew you were cooler than that. Sex was like some mysterious thing that everyone talked about having but no one really seemed to be having it (and if they were, they had no clue how to do it well). In other words, adventure was everywhere you went. Superbad understands all of this and sums it up with one last adventure between friends. The script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg is a lot more intelligent than one might think. The dialogue crackles with vulgar authenticity, the scenario is simple so the humor takes focus, and the observations about friendship have the ring of truth.

Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) (as the characters share the names of the writers, one can't help but think the film is at least semi-autobiographical) have been best friends since grade school. It's their senior year of high school now, and they're preparing to move out into the still-not-real world of college. Evan is going to Dartmouth, but Seth, not as successful at academics, is on his way to the state college. There's an underlying tension between them, but that's not going to stop them from making the most of the last days leading up to graduation. They start the day doing what they do best: Slacking around, discussing porn. Seth's big college decision is which porno website he should subscribe to, while Evan wonders why women can flaunt what nature gave them while guys have to keep it in their pants. Anyway, graduation means parties, and while one bully makes sure they know they aren't invited to his, Jules (Emma Stone) decides to invite Seth to hers that night. Seth promises to get the alcohol, thinks this is his chance to score (in the biblical sense) before graduation, and thinks Evan should do the same with Becca (Martha MacIsaac), who clearly has a crush on him.

They are, to use a cliché, polar opposites, joined in their status as losers and outsiders. I use the term "loser" in an affectionate way. These are two guys who know who they are better than most people their age and only care about what other people think when keeps them from having the fun they want to have. They're nerds, but they know it and embrace it. Seth cares about girls in the way horny teenage guys typically do and judges his success at school in how far he's gotten sexually (which, as little as he has gotten, he isn't afraid to boast about). He swears in ways to make a sailor blush, and the real crux of the success of Rogen and Goldberg's screenplay is the way they make their dialogue reflect the characters without drawing attention to the differences in the way the characters talk. Seth admires Evan's mom's (Stacy Edwards) cleavage, and says he's jealous that Evan was breast fed. That's funny, but Evan's response, which makes absolutely no sense in returning the friendly jab, is perhaps funnier because it instantly establishes Evan's inability to keep up with his friend, no matter how hard he wants to try.

Evan is bona fide nerd—awkward in the most trivial of conversations (which he has a few uncomfortable ones with Becca), smart, and probably the kid everyone chose last at recess years before. He's also a nice kid and has a better grip on reality. When Seth tells him about Jules' party and Seth's role as alcohol-bringer, Evan is quick to respond that she might not be interested in Seth and is only using him to get the alcohol. The getting of the alcohol is a problem, but no need to fear, Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a kid even Evan can make fun of, even if the two are set to room together at Dartmouth next fall, is on the case with a fake ID. According to the ID, he's McLovin (no first—or maybe it's last—name) from Hawaii (Seth: "Are you trying to be an Irish R&B singer?"). Soon enough, Seth and Evan and "McLovin" are separated, the former two getting a ride to a different party from a very creepy guy ("Are you guys on Myspace?") while the latter joins up with a pair of cops (Rogen and Bill Hader), who are there to show what happens when two teenagers have the appearance of growing up without ever bothering to do so.

Their adventures are hilarious but stemmed in reality. The party that Seth and Evan arrive at is potentially a place to score some free booze, but it means traversing through immature adults, discovering what a mysterious stain on Seth's pants really is (and how it got there and why it really upsets the party's host), and singing some Guess Who because Evan really looks like some random dude's brother. There's some conflict brought to the surface, but it's never forced. It's just the kind of honesty two people can have when they've known each other so long. McLovin (this Mintz-Plasse kid is really funny in his sincerity in the role) gets down with his bad side with the cops and learns something called confidence. Ultimately, they make it to the real party, and even though they've had this planned out for who knows how long, the real thing isn't what they thought it would be. As it turns out, it means more to them and, to their surprise, to someone else, too. The girls here start as objects of affection and lust but turn into the means to show how the boys grow in understanding of themselves and, eventually, apart from each other.

The last scene in the film is bittersweetly perfect. These characters genuinely endear themselves to us, and it's both a pleasure and a bit of a shame to watch them walk away, changed just a little for the better. Watching Superbad, I thought about friends once loved but since moved on. I reflected on my own crazy-adventure days in college (I was a late bloomer apparently). And, when it was over, I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like if these two guys ever ended up on the same college campus together.

Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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