Cranky’s Flickershow Reviews

By Neil Richter

Superbad…yeah right.


       Talk about a complete misnomer.  Superbad just might be the best teen sex comedy of the last decade or so.  If Animal House was The Godfather to these types of movies, then Superbad is Goodfellas—more graphic, more fearless, and way funnier.  Superbad takes chances that its predecessors didn’t, including a gross-out gag involving the only bodily discharge not to be utilized in a sex comedy up until this point.  In short, it’s a shot of pure adrenalin into a tired premise.

       Allow me to set aside my gushing for a few minutes in order to take a closer look at the framework of the film.  For the remainder of this review, I will be purposefully vague so as not to spoil any of the jokes. (Including the ones the previews as well as other reviewers have already spoiled) High school buddies Seth and Evan are facing separation anxiety due to the onset of college.  They spend one wild night together, the last before graduation, trying to secure booze for a party, a party in which they hope to intercept the (hopefully) drunken girls of their respective dreams.  To achieve this end, they enlist Fogel, the nerd to end all nerds, on account of the fake I.D. that he has recently secured.  From here on out, things don’t go as planned.  That’s it.  Like many teen films before it, Superbad relies on the ‘one wild night’ premise, limiting itself to a 24 hour time-frame, and a brief coda taking place the morning after.  In short, even the set up has been done hundreds of times before.  Think American Graffiti.  Think Dazed and Confused.  Hell, think Can’t Hardly Wait.  My underlying point here is that the magic of Superbad cannot be easily categorized.  The jokes are just as sophomoric and scatological as you might expect, perhaps even moreso, but time and again they hit the comedic bullseye with an accuracy that is nothing short of frightening.  The entire production seems somewhat rambling and slapped together as the boys stumble from one adventure to another.  There were many times when I stared at the screen agape, wondering why on God’s green earth I was laughing so hard at a joke I’ve heard different variations of hundreds of times before.  However, for every time I had that reaction, there were a dozen other moments that blindsided me with their boldness and originality.  

       Much of this must be attributed to the young cast.  I could go on and on about what is wonderful about each performance.  However, that would quickly become redundant.  While Jonah Hill and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Seth and Fogel) are brilliant in their own right, I only have the space to single out one actor.  That would invariably be Michael Cera.  His Evan is one of the more believable high school-aged characterizations to come down the pike in quite awhile.  It helps that Cera is himself a teenager (Jonah Hill is actually in his 20’s) so his look is completely right for the youth of the part.  Furthermore, Cera has been developing his singular comedic persona for quite some time now.  Just look at his work on the highly acclaimed series Arrested Development for proof of this.  Cera is the real deal.  Some of the funniest moments in Superbad are his nonverbal reactions to everything that goes on around him.  This guy makes answering a cell phone look funny.  He makes running look funny.  He makes riding a bus look funny.  While most would-be comedians his age use wild mannerisms and over-the-top behavior to get laughs, Cera simply moves his eyes in a certain way, or adds the slightest pause to one of his lines.  Wherein most comedians take a shovel-to-the-face approach to an audience, Cera utilizes a scalpel.  There are hundreds of adult comedians out there who, after years and years of work on the comedy circuit, have yet to understand the subtle rhythms that Cera taps into here.  The man is a surgeon…the end.

       As I gradually run out of space, I feel a pang of guilt for not giving a shoutout to Seth Rogan, the man who helped create Superbad, in addition to playing one of two dangerously intoxicated police officers in the film.  How long will it take for him to be noticed by Hollywood?  As the right hand man to certified comedic GENIUS Judd Apatow, he has helped bring us projects as diverse as Freaks and Geeks (in my opinion the best…thing…in any medium…about teenagers.), as well as the recent megahits The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up.  With Superbad’s inevitable success, I think ol’ Seth is going to be getting a lot more work outside of Apatow and co. 

       One last thing.  My love for this film is not simply based on laughter.  Yes, I appreciated the many well-rounded and downright Shakespearean jokes regarding human genitalia.  Yes, I loved the wanton property damage and overall irresponsible behavior on display.  However, what really struck a chord with me was the realism.  The emotions bubbling under the surface of this film are painfully genuine, and often not very funny at all.  The transition period between the teen years and young adulthood is a tough time.  Superbad knows this with a vulgar eloquence that sets the bar very, very high for future teen films.  Most movies varnish over this with cheap, invented scenarios.  Superbad lives in it.  It knows what its like to truly embarrass yourself in front of the opposite sex.  Not cute little sitcom stutters, I’m talking absolute humiliation.  It knows what its like to feel that alcohol is the only thing that will make you cooler, or more charming, or better, only to have those assumptions blasted away into shameful, bleary-eyed oblivion.  It knows what its like to cover your fears of the future with vulgar jokes and misplaced aggression.  In short, Superbad conveys all the horrors and joys of youth in a way that few films have.  Oh, and it also has some great jokes about the male sex organ.