Director: Greg Mottola
Writers: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Cinematographer: Russ T. Alsobrook
Starring: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Bill Hader
Studio/Running Time: Sony Pictures Entertainment, 114 min.
After the box office success and critical approbation lauded upon Knocked Up, anticipation for the next Judd Apatow/Seth Rogen collaboration was tangible. Hell, it was practically edible. That studios finally green lit a script Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg had been sitting on for years felt like turning the tables, finally some justice after years of Apatow and his cohorts being screwed over repeatedly in the pursuit of their comedic dreams.
Part of why Superbad moved into production, though, may be because beyond its surface the film doesn?t feel that much like an Apatow picture. Superbad tells the story of graduating high school students Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera), names and possibly more taken directly from Superbad?s screenwriters, and their attempts to obtain alcohol for a party after they get the idea in their heads that this will offer them a chance with the girls of their dreams. The pair enlist a friend with a fake I.D., Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), to help them out and, after he is apprehended by pair of bungling police officers, the rest of the movie is largely taken up with reuniting the characters, alcohol and partying. Shadowing the main plot?s storyline is that Seth and Evan are heading to different colleges after graduation, which tinges all of their actions with the anxiety that their time as best friends may be running short.
Unlike either the late, lamented Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, or the more recent 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, Superbad is not an ensemble piece. While Apatow?s best work explores the interactions within communities, the friends in Superbad are even more isolated and disgraceful than their earlier counterparts, the geeks, and so instead the story is a focused piece about two friends groping with the changes caused by aging. These friends also occasionally interact with a wacky duo of side characters, one of whom is played by the film?s writer. If this sounds familiar, it?s probably because this describes nearly every film Kevin Smith has made, and the similarities show?right down to the Star Wars references and dick jokes.
Not to imply that there?s anything wrong with this. The film does justice to both comedic traditions it derives from, with a plethora of deeply funny moments and at times startlingly realistic characters. Seth and Evan are so well conceived that their interactions seem derived less from a script than from personal experience, and while sadly more than a few moments seemed ripped from my own life, the universal specifics the story is told in make this the case for its entire audience. The flip side of this, though, is that it makes them somewhat generic stereotypes, though highly nuanced ones. Although the film never gets as far beneath the surface of its characters as Freaks or Chasing Amy, it?s because Superbad would rather spend its time enjoying another satisfying laugh about the misuse of police powers or, yeah, a few more dick jokes.
So no, Superbad isn?t as good as Knocked Up, but that?s ok since neither are most modern-day comedies. It?s still hilarious, and even if Superbad?s not much more than a teen comedy, it?s the best teen comedy to come out in at least a decade. There?s no shame in that.