Superbad is one of the few movies I have seen in the theaters more than once. I find it ridiculously funny but the success of the film is largely due to the two charismatic leads (Jonah Hill and Michael Cera) as two high school seniors who have a night of misadventures trying to obtain alcohol to impress their crushes. While the plot treads a lot of familiar teen comedy territory, it gives them fresh twists (like having the guy getting the fake ID picking a ridiculous name like McLovin) and focuses on the stress starting college can put on even the longest friendships.
The script has a really fresh voice, which could partially due to the fact that it was written by teens. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg started writing the script when they were thirteen. When Rogen landed a spot of the television show Freaks and Geeks, they made the first step towards bringing their story to the big screen when they arranged a table reading with Rogen and Freaks and Geeks co-star Jason Segel. Clearly, years passed before they were able to start production and Rogen was no longer able to play one of the teen leads, taking on a more supporting role as one the cops that run into the nerdy Fogell.
While the main plot follows Hill and Cera as they hunt for alcohol, there is a fun side adventure where their extremely nerdy pal Fogell travels with two cops (Rogen and Bill Hader) pretending to be his fake ID alias McLovin. By the end of the film you discover the cops saw through his ruse from the start and only played along to show that cops can be cool. They actually help Fogell have the more traditional teen movie “crazy night”, even helping him lose his virginity. Watching the two sides trying to impress each is pretty funny and seems to involve a lot of improv. I always get a kick out of seeing Bill Hader in films and think he’s been pretty smart about his projects outside Saturday Night Live. He knows who he is and isn’t trying to get leading man roles. He’s able to do more projects this way without suffering overexposure and gets more connections so the work keeps coming.
When you read dialogue from the film, it comes off as fairly standard teen comedy sex fueled humor, but I think Hill and Cera manage to make the characters likeable. While Cera has a history of being the lovably nerdy underdog, I think Hill does a great job of taking a potentially obnoxious character and making him into someone you really feel for. Hill’s Seth is very aware that his looks hold him back and uses his outrageous humor to win people over. Little does he know that his crude jokes hurt him much more than his outward appearance.
The main characters struggle with the fact that college will soon separate them. While Cera tries to hide the truth from Hill, he was accepted into a top school and plans to room withFogell. There’s a lot of intense things going on that are not usually touched in teen comedies. The plan had clearly always been that the two would room together when they went to college, but Cera got better grads and therefore has better opportunities that Hill. He firmly states that he will not be held back by Hill, at least, not anymore. Cera expresses that he wonders what he missed out on due to loyalty to Hill. However, he is not quite ready to fly solo. He only agrees to live with Fogell because he’d rather enter this new world with someone that annoys him, than alone.
One thing I like about this film was that all the kids are fairly normal. Even the host of the party (Emma Stone) isn’t the head of the cheerleadingg squad or the most popular girl in school. It keeps things more relatable. Also find it refreshing that while the boys clearly have sex on their mind, they end the film still virgins but with budding relationships with girls they care about and appreciate. I really like the scene where Cera’s crush drunkenly throws herself at him. While he wants to lose his virginity and wants to be with this girl, he knows he doesn’t want it to happen this way. The girl’s angry reaction is very interesting as well. Girls are taught that men want sex constantly, so for Cera to reject her, even when it is in her best interest, is crushing. Luckily, when she sobers up, she’s able to appreciate how lucky she was that he didn’t act like “guys are supposed to”.
While Superbad isn’t groundbreaking, it’s a teen comedy that’s a little smarter and has more heart than the rest and is able to go crude without becoming unwatchable.
Seth: You know when you hear girls say ‘Ah man, I was so shit-faced last night, I shouldn’t have fucked that guy?’ We could be that mistake!