- SUPER GOOD: High school buddies Seth and Evan get their kicks in 'Superbad.'
Here's an endorsement: I've already seen “Superbad” twice. It's that riotously funny. It's also pretty sweet, in a way that teen movies usually are not, and tremendously foul-mouthed, so much so that it's a pretty safe bet that, despite its many redeeming qualities, your mom would not approve.
Judd Apatow (“40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up”), whose brand of ribald but affectionate comedy has become the gold standard for R-rated comedy in Hollywood, produced the film and seems to have gotten a lion's share of the credit for its surprise box-office success. Perhaps more deserving are screenwriters Seth Rogen, who recently leapt into fame as the star of “Knocked Up,” and his childhood friend and writing partner Evan Goldberg. They're said to have started writing it when they were 13. Inspired by what they felt were inaccurate and unfunny portrayals of high school life, they've said they wrote a screenplay based on their own experiences.
To that end, the film stars Jonah Hill (“Knocked Up”) as Seth and Michael Cerra (“Arrested Development”) as Evan. Seth is paunchy, loud and sex-obsessed — just about everything he says involves genitalia. Evan is skinny, nerdy and afraid. They're inseparable. In a few months, they're going to be separated for the first time since childhood. Evan to the Ivy League; Seth to a state school. In the meantime, they're anxious that they haven't had that quintessential high school experience — a night of loosing their virginities, booze and partying.
Over the course of 24 hours, a mission emerges. Seth and Evan are given the task of procuring liquor for a party. Fogel, their nerdy friend, is set to get a fake I.D. and will be able to buy them booze. That Fogel chooses to rename himself “McLovin” — one name only — and recast himself as a 25-year-old Hawaiian organ donor is only the beginning of the trio's problems. The liquor store is robbed and Fogel falls in with two cops, played by Rogen, looking older and svelter than in “Knocked Up,” and SNL's Bill Hadler, who are as juvenile, if not more, than the high schoolers.
In what becomes a separate storyline, Seth and Evan's quest to get booze by other means comes close to being waylaid by too many hijinks. Seth gets hit by a car twice, uses laundry detergent bottles to store stolen beer, has menstrual blood smeared on his leg and narrowly avoids a bottle to the face, while crazed coke-heads force Evan to sing on the spot (Cerra's version of the Guess Who's “These Eyes” is near-genius).
The acting abilities of Hill and Cerra manage to keep the ship righted. Despite yelling for virtually the entire film, Hill still manages a nuanced performance. Cerra, who routinely out-acted the all-star cast on “Arrested Development,” hints at huge promise in the film. He's a master of deadpan awkwardness. Subtle turns — a lip quiver here, a pregnant pause there — make his character eminently believable.
Fogel, played by newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse, is a revelation. Adenoidal and awkward, but obliviously confident, he's the ultimate movie geek. He's also a real-life high-school student. The other actors might be a little older — Hill is in his early 20s — but, to director Greg Mottola's credit, there are no grizzled Luke Perrys or girls with fake boobs masquerading as teens.
At the party, the romantic exchanges are just as realistic. They're fumbling and vomit-soaked, largely failures, though Fogel gets a welcome heroic turn. In the end, Seth and Evan, and their lady-friends (despite the crudity of the dialogue and the dude-focus, the supporting female actors are all well-drawn and respectfully treated), get a shot at redemption. Ultimately, though, this a male love story of best friends and the anxieties of growing up and separating. It might the sweetest movie you'll see all summer. Without a doubt it'll be the funniest.