By Aaron Cutler
By Amy Nicholson
By Simon Abrams
By Chris Klimek
By Nick Schager
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
The latest comic meteorite to hurtle forth from the galaxy of producer Judd Apatow, Superbadis about a couple of chronically unpopular best friends who, after four years stuck on the lowest rung of the high school social ladder, find themselves invited to a legitimately cool party. Goodbye, Friday nights chugging Old Milwaukee in their parents' furnished basements; hello, getting shitfaced in the company of a few dozen of their not-particularly-close friends. More importantly, having completed their independent study in Internet porn, our heroes finally get the chance to put their virtual carnal knowledge to practical use. Provided, that is, they can actually get to the party.
Yes, Superbadis about one of those nights when you finally have the chance to prove that you're not as much of a dork as everyone thinks, only to be chased by the cops, hit by a car (twice), and nearly pulverized by the dude whose girlfriend's menstrual blood somehow ends up on your pant leg, as well as to drunkenly embarrass yourself in front of the one girl you have real feelings for and then wake up the next morning wondering if it was all a dream. You know, one of thosenights. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.
Superbadwas written by Knocked Upstar Seth Rogen and co-writer Evan Goldberg, who cooked up the first draft of the script when they were in high school. That helps to explain why the movie feels so knowing in every one of its clumsily averted hormonal glances and frank discussions of things like the best way to camouflage an erection. Rogen and Goldberg even named the lead characters after themselves, though a few drafts later they are equally recognizable as specimens bred in the Apatow gene pool the sort of kids you knew in high school, or maybe were yourself, who seem a touch young for their age, who are more book smart than street smart, and who live in abject terror at the thought of going off to college with their virginity intact.
More geek than freak, chubby, motor-mouthed Seth (Jonah Hill) perpetually brings up the rear in gym class and gets spat on by the resident senior-class bully. Gangly, soft-spoken Evan (Michael Cera) who can run like the wind but doesn't really getthe point of things like sports stands dutifully at his side, an introspective Sancho to Seth's brash Quixote. True to form, they pine for girls who seem out of their respective leagues: Evan for nice-girl Becca (Martha MacIsaac), whose obvious flirtations he cluelessly rebuffs; Seth for the comely Jules (Scottsdale native Emma Stone). Then divine intervention pairs Seth and Jules in a home-economics project and results in the popular girl inviting the dork (and his dork friend) to her graduation party. But, as mentioned, getting to that hallowed place proves easier said than done. In fact, it turns into something like the Lord of the Ringsof adolescent nookie movies a calamitous, hazard-filled journey towards the fiery gates of Mount Poon.
At 19 and 23 respectively, Cera and Hill have the fully developed comic timing of seasoned pros Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in sneakers and cargo shorts. Yet Superbadis routinely stolen right out from under them by an 18-year-old newcomer, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who was plucked from MySpace obscurity to play the unapologetically dweeby third wheel, Fogell, and who embraces the part with such unbridled comic brio that the character and his fake-ID alias, McLovin is bound for comedy immortality. After a hilariously botched attempt by our intrepid trio to buy booze using said ID, Superbadeffectively splits along two parallel tracks, as Seth and Evan navigate their own circuitous route to Jules' house, while Fogell/McLovin winds up getting an unexpected lift from two police officers (played by Rogen and Saturday Night Live's Bill Hader) who make the Keystone Kops look like paragons of law and order.
Directed by Greg Mottola (an alumnus, like Hill, of Apatow's short-lived TV series Undeclared), Superbadis duly ribald and often achingly funny, brewed from the now-familiar Apatow house blend of go-for-broke slapstick and instantly quotable, potty-mouthed dialogue. ("I'm so jealous you got to suck on those tits when you were a baby," a wistful Seth tells Evan after an encounter with the his friend's amply bosomed mother.)
But what sets Superbad far apart from the American Pieseries indeed, what earns it a place alongside American Graffiti, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Dazed and Confusedin that elite strata of high-school comedies destined to stand the test of time is its sweet, soulful vulnerability, particularly as it becomes clear that the only thing Seth and Evan feel more anxious about than losing their virginity is the thought of losing each other when they head off to separate colleges. That naughty-but-nice approach may seem something of an Apatow cliché by now if the characters themselves didn't ring so true. Make no mistake: Superbadis a movie about getting wasted and getting laid, but it is, above all, an ode to the end of teenage innocence in all its wonderful, horrible splendor.
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