“Superbad” is an extremely funny movie. Is it as good as “The 40 Year Old Virgin” or “Knocked Up”, the other films Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen have been involved in? No. But it is a very funny film with just a few slight flaws.
Seth (Jonah Hill, “Knocked Up”) and Evan (Michael Cera, TV’s “Arrested Development”) have two more weeks of high school before the summer and then they are off to college. Evan was accepted to Dartmouth, Seth was not, so this is their last summer together. They also feel it is their last chance to get laid and each has set their sights on a highly improbable conquest; Seth has his eyes for Becca (Martha MacIsaac) and Evan is very attracted to Jules (Emma Stone). Both guys are surprised and very excited to be invited to a party Becca is throwing at her house, her parents have gone away and she is anxious to have a lot of friends over. Her eyes light up when Seth says he can bring alcohol. Evan agrees to bring a bottle of Goldslick Vodka for Jules, her favorite drink and he is eager to do anything for her that might earn him some points. The only problem? They aren’t old enough to buy alcohol. Then Fogel (Christopher Mintz-Plattes), a nerdy friend who they really tolerate more than anything, brags he will be picking up a fake ID that afternoon. Their problems are solved. That afternoon, they learn Fogel has purchased a Hawaiian driver’s license with the name “McLovin”. They decide to go ahead with the plan anyway and McLovin enters a liquor store. While there, the store is robbed and McLovin meets the two cops, Officer Slater (Bill Hader, TV’s “Saturday Night Live”) and Officer Michaels (Seth Rogen, “Knocked Up”), who answer the call. During the evening, all of these characters cross paths leading to some memorable, very funny adventures.
Seth Rogen and his friend Evan Goldberg apparently wrote “Superbad” when they were both teenagers. Now that Rogen is enjoying increased popularity and visibility due to roles in “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up”, he and Judd Apatow, director of Rogen’s last two films and producer of “Superbad” were able to get this project made.
“Superbad” tells the story of two teenagers who are desperate to have sex for the first time. One is skinny and a little geeky. The other is overweight and has an unfortunate hairstyle. Neither is the football hero or the class jock, so they feel they have an inherent impediment to this goal. But that doesn’t stop them from constantly thinking about, talking about or trying to have sex.
Each is surprised when the object of their affection seems to be at least partially interested in talking, or getting to know one another. And they try to muddle through the conversations. Because Seth and Evan are primarily interested in having sex, they use language that may shock some consistently and casually, like many teenagers do. But it is more funny because we realize perhaps we talked like this when we were there age, when all of this was new and slightly strange and we tried to verbalize all of these new feelings with language we think makes us seem more adult and interesting.
“Superbad” has all of the markings of any of the terrible teen sex comedies released in the last decade. So why is it better than these other films? Even though the two guys are on a singular quest, and use raunchy language, they are also both intelligent and change over the course of the film. Yes, they are consumed with the idea of having sex, but they also realize the girls who are the object of their affections have feelings and they take these into consideration. When Seth makes a mistake, and Becca corrects him, he realizes his mistake and is actually remorseful. He isn’t sure how to handle his moment, so he walks away. Later, when he meets Becca again by accident, he realizes she isn’t holding the mistake against him. Perhaps there is some hope for a relationship.
Evan is just the opposite. He is less sure about his ‘abilities’ and their plan than Seth. But there is a moment when he realizes that Jules is drunk and he shouldn’t continue. He doesn’t want to achieve this goal by making out with a drunken girl, so he holds back, even if it means he will remain a virgin for that much longer. It is a nice moment because it helps to show that he will grow up to be a fine young man.
Fogel is the nerdy guy they tolerate because they don’t exactly have a wealth of friends to choose from. Christopher Mintz-Plattes plays Fogel and he will probably be the most enduring element of the film. When Fogel announces he is going to buy a fake ID, Seth and Evan brush the idea off, just another one of Fogel’s crazy plans. Then Becca and Jules give them details about the upcoming party and they realize Fogel can help them become the heroes of the party. When they meet Fogel, and look at his new ID, they realize they shouldn’t have placed all of their hopes in their friend. His new ID, from Hawaii, lists his name as “McLovin”, a 25-year-old organ donor from the 50th state. They are amazed at Fogel’s inability to see how this ID could be problematic. But they are stuck and need to move forward with the plan.
Mintz-Plattes is very good. Many actors his age would tend to play the roles very broad, yelling and screaming their lines, making their roles little more convincing than a cartoon character. Mintz-Plattes plays the role in a very normal way, making the character seem like a fairly normal teenager; he is full of bravado at times, but also humble enough to know when he should be quiet. He also has the strangest journey of all of the three characters. It is a fun, interesting and fairly unique character.
That is not to say that both Seth and Evan aren’t funny or memorable. Jonah Hill plays Seth, the role Rogen wrote based on his own adventures. Jonah’s Seth is the more hyperactive of the two and the most desperate to lose his virginity. He is funny and interesting and seems to have a lot of talent. The film depicts a couple of moments in their development and Seth narrates one of these. When he starts talking about the event, it seems odd at first but the story continues and gets stranger and stranger. It is a great illustration of why these characters are so obsessed with the thought of losing their virginity.
During the course of the evening, he and Evan end up at a party filled with adults. Seth ends up dancing with a woman and has a memorable experience. The scene is meant to shock us and provide a memorable moment, much like the sight of Jason Bigg’s with an apple pie plastered to his groin. But there is a significant difference between the two. In “American Pie”, the scene is fully integrated into the overall fabric of the story. The scene in “Superbad” seems more of an anomaly than a piece of the story and doesn’t fit as neatly.
Evan is the more intelligent, but less demonstrative member of the duo. He goes along with a lot of what Seth says and decides. But he does have a mind and will of his own and manages to have his own moments. There is a funny scene early on when he is walking down a hallway at his school and realizes Jules is walking in front of him. She turns and catches him looking at her, yet decides to talk to him. Evan raises his hand and someone bumps into him, causing his hand to touch her breast. Mortified, he tries to explain, but she realizes what happened and doesn’t think a lot of it.
“Superbad” has a lot going for it. It is extremely funny, the acting is good and it is a great addition to the summer. The middle does drag a bit, each of the characters seems to get delayed one too many times on their way to the big party, but it is funny enough, strange enough, and memorable enough to carry us through these few slower moments.