The ads have been running for months. They touted the fact that the producers of The 40 Year Old Virgin and Talladega Nights were on board. No sooner had Knocked Up become a hit than that title was added to the mix. The trailers looked hilarious in a decidedly sophomoric way. The big question was whether or not it would reach the comedic heights of those other titles, especially since Superbad doesn't have any big names in the lead roles to draw from. The story draws upon other raunchy coming of age flicks like American Pie and Animal House but ratchets up the heart.
Superbad chronicles a day in the life of a couple of high school losers, Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera). I have the suspicion that the genesis of these characters is rooted in reality. The first clue is in the names of the characters — they match up with writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. There is also the fact they began work on the tale when they were teenagers as a reaction to the teen movies that they could not identify with, as well as prove they could write a film. All of this adds up to a feeling of exaggerated authenticity. Superbad excels at combining the believable and the absurd.
Early scenes set up just how big a pair of losers these two are, while also showing the very close friendship the two have developed. These scenes also set the bar for the unrepentant levels of vulgarity that will permeate what is to come. The convergence of foul language, frank discussion of their goals, and the fears that surface as a result become a memorable melange of teenage insecurities.
The story is set into motion when Seth is approached by popular girl (and object of his unrequited affection) Jules (Emma Stone) about supplying booze for a party she is throwing that evening. Seizing the opportunity to shed his loser image, he throws himself into his task. He quickly brings Evan in on the plan.
Evan has a chivalrous idea of love and dating which has prevented him from speaking to the object of his attentions, Becca (Martha MacIsaac). With the alcohol mission, Seth has Evan convinced that this is his ticket to some pre-graduation carnal pleasures. This leads to a series of misadventures as they try to acquire a laundry list of liquor and get to the party in time to enjoy the fruits of their labors.
These attempts at procurement introduce a third loser, a loser so big that he is a loser among the losers. Fogell, a bespectacled Lord of the Nerds who tries desperately to be cool, arrives on the scene bragging about his newly acquired fake ID, which identifies him as a 25-year-old organ donor from Hawaii with the unlikely moniker of McLovin. This leads to Seth using Fogell to try out the ID, which shouldn't fool anyone, and ends up wowing everyone, even the two cops called to the liquor store. This leaves Fogell in the hands of the cops, and Seth and Evan off in another direction.
In addition to the main story thread, we get the tale of two cops. The law is played by Seth Rogen and Bill Hader. They are young, not far removed from the party culture that they are now breaking up. Their story is an interesting counterpoint to the journey of the kids. While the kids are struggling with separation anxiety and the desire to find love, the cops are trying to find balance between their position of power and their wish to show they still can have fun.
Above all things, Superbad is flat out hilarious. It likely has the highest jokes per minute ratio of any film this year, and most of them hit. But where it really separates itself is in the characters. The story is nothing we haven't seen before – kids trying to hook up and get drunk (not necessarily in that order) – but everything about the way the story moves feels genuine. Sure, it is toward the absurd end of the scale, but most viewers can probably identify with all that happens.
The acting is all spot on. From Jonah Hill's foul-mouthed Seth to Michael Cera's big screen take on his George Michael character from Arrested Development, I had no problems believing these two in their roles here. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, as Fogell, brings a new nerd screen legend to life. Rogen and Hader's cops mirror the potential future of Seth and Evan.
Bottom line. This is a film that delivers the goods. It is not the most original of its kind, but it has that heart injected with the raunch that makes it memorable and separates it from the crowd. This is definitely a crowd pleaser that will have you laughing long after you have left the theater.Powered by Sidelines