"Superbad," the brilliant new teen sex comedy from the filmmaking team behind "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up" brought many thoughts and reactions, most of which were some degree of giggle, chuckle, hand-clapping, and often intense laughing.
As far as coherent thoughts go a single one was particularly dominant: God am I glad I'm not in high school anymore. Gone forever are those damned days of social awkwardness, desperate virginity, and the inability to purchase alcohol - three of the all-too-real elements that hold together the plot of this delightful new film.
"Superbad" follows the adventure of three seniors on one of the last nights of the school year. Two are best buds - the tall, thinner Ryan (Michael Cera,) and the heavier, more-wisecracking Seth (Jonah Hill.) Observant filmgoers will note these are the first names of the film's screenwriters, whatever that might mean. The two devoted, life-long friends are social outcasts, who are left to befriend the especially nerdy Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse,) who will be known throughout most of the film by the name McLovin.
The funny name first appears when the three are looking at Fogell's new fake ID. The forgery - which boldly depicts the geeky teen as a 25-year-old Hawaiian organ donor with a single absurd name - is Seth and Ryan's golden ticket. Despite the pair's lower high school social caste and awkwardness each luckily know girls - the particularly sweet, attractive, Becca and Jules - with their eyes on them. When the girls need alcohol for a party of more popular students the fake ID is - or appears to be - the path into the girls' hearts - and, after a few drinks, their pants.
Murphy's law begins to go into effect when Fogell, now McLovin, goes into the liquor store to buy the evening's supply of booze. Seth and Ryan are momentarily distracted by an attractive girl who Ryan remarks has had a breast reduction. Seth says what most guys would think: what a horrible thing! When they come back they see a police car at the liquor store. The two panic, assuming that Fogell has been busted in the act of using the fake ID. Thus, without cash or access to liquor, their odyssey begins as they rush away down the first path to their goal. Meanwhile, Fogell's actually safe. He wasn't busted. A robber burst into the store while he was buying the alcohol. The cops who show up (two amazing performances by Bill Hader and co-screenwriter Seth Rogen) are more interested in hanging out with the now-cool McLovin than finding the perpetrator. And so the story splits in half as we see McLovin's adventure with the two hilarious, fun-loving cops. The two stories will, of course, eventually intertwine.
I'll just lay it out there: "Superbad" is one of the funniest films in years. I just laughed so continuously - the dialogue is so fresh and lively, littered with clever pop culture references, and elegantly-phrased profanities and vulgarities. And then there were plenty of big laughs just waiting, confident in their hilarity.
Unquestionably the film is funnier than the previous Judd Apatow-produced or directed features starring this group of actors, namely "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Talladega Nights," "Knocked Up," and "Anchorman." The film shares the same sensibility as "Virgin" and "Knocked Up" in that it gently - not heavy-handedly - criticizes the slacker/irresponsibility ethos such movies are generally expect to celebrate. Where "Virgin" slyly promoted abstinence and "Knocked Up" was in favor of taking responsibility for an unplanned pregnancy, in the end the characters of "Superbad" realize that the drunkenness and intoxicated sex they pursued isn't what they really want.
This was one of the first films in which I was somewhat anxious going in based on how much younger the protagonists are compared to me. (They're 18, I'm 23.) Know the newspaper comic strip "Zits" which focus on the misadventures of teenage Jeremy? It's impossible for me to really empathize with that character. I always have a sense of smug superiority with him. I was afraid I'd have the same response to the characters of "Superbad." Instead I was genuinely able to relate and empathize to a strong degree, growing particularly weary when they were first put in their tough situation of being without money and promised liquor. That first viewing, though, I was able to put that behind me by knowing that in the end everything would turn out all right.
If I have one weakness as a critic it's an over-enthusiasm for films that I really like. So I decided to see "Superbad" a second time and see how well it held up. I can happily report that I thoroughly enjoyed the second lap around the bases and it'll be a definite DVD purchase.