Superbad is another comedy about immature males in pursuit of sex with loads of substance abuse and questionable acts of stupidity in between. But what makes the man-child template - so intolerable in the spate of gross-out comedies of recent times - so successful in this film? Could it be that the characters are actually children, or at least not quite adults? The palpable sense of nostalgia and the loss of something precious, which honestly feel pathetic in films like Old School with its thirty-something characters aping kids, appears almost sublime when the actors are themselves young.
Clearly producer Judd Apatow has his hands all over it, but there is something different with this project. Director Greg Mottola, with the critically popular TV series Arrested Development under his belt, brings to Superbad a similar roster of quirky characters played to perfection by impressive comedic actors. Michel Cera as Evan plays a droll neurotic (think a young, less jittery Woody Allen). Jonah Hill plays his counterpart, the crass, portly, best friend who spouts a seemingly non-stop barrage of profanities and is particularly given to histrionics. The pair are rounded out by third-wheel Fogel (Mintz-Plasse), a geeky white kid perhaps a little too taken with hip-hop culture, and whose newly acquired fake ID could get them the liqueur that promises to impress the girls they hope to score with.
The banter between the three, especially Cera and Hill, is pure gold. The opening dialogue has that charm reminiscent of early Tarantino, even if the content is more American Pie fare. But too much time is given to the juvenile clowning of the pair of cops (Hader and Rogan) who practically abduct, then befriend, Fogel.
These adult characters are more in line with the bawdy humour we've become used to. In that regard, Superbad hedges its bets. Perhaps a little unsure of its drier, smarter humour, it provides us with plenty of dependable lowbrow high jinks.
The women are purely peripheral to the film, whose main interest is the impending death of the male friendship. Overtures and subtext of the latent eroticism of buddy flicks have been blasted and satirized by recent movies like Hot Fuzz and I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. Yet in Superbad we are given such a tender and aching depiction of fraternal love, you might have a tear accompanying that chuckle at the last scene as it closes with the ambiguous tune of Curtis Mayfield's PS I Love You.
Director: Greg Mottola.
Cast: Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bill Hader, Seth Rogan
2007. R. 114 min.