Dir: Greg Mottola
Starring: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Martha MacIsaac, Emma Stone, Bill Hader, Seth Rogen
Run. Time: 114mins
Superbad is the second of the Summer’s comedies from the team behind The 40 Year Old Virgin. It follows a day in the life of co-dependent students Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera), named for writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, as they attempt to become more accepted within their peer group and win the affections of their respective objects of affection, Jules (Emma Stone) and Becca (Martha MacIsaac). Their chance comes when Jules charges them with buying alcohol for her big graduation party using their friend Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and his fake ID. Fogell’s path also crosses that of two police officers played by Rogen and Bill Hader as they attempt to show him a good time.
Superbad is a film that hinges on its characters because most of the comedy comes directly from them as opposed to being more situational, although there are a couple of wonderful scenarios during the film. This meant that I had a major problem when I didn’t warm to Jonah Hill’s Seth character. I don’t really know why, but I didn’t enjoy him. This isn’t to say I didn’t laugh at a lot of his scenes, just that I never totally bought into him and as a result I don’t think I was ever fully on board for the film and wasn’t endeared sufficiently to the character. However, I enjoyed just about everything else the film had to offer. I found John Cera to be incredibly likeable and delightfully awkward. Fogell was also great fun to watch and there was a great chemistry between all of the actors, particularly Seth Rogen and Bill Haden as the two cops. The supporting cast was tremendous, from the two love interests down to random guests at parties. All of these peripheral characters really added to the comedy. The film was highly improvised and I have to confess it does suffer for it in some places as the film seems to lose momentum for the sake of an ad lib from one of its stars. That said, this is undoubtedly one of the funniest films I have seen in the cinema and there are never misses that last too long. The whole room was roaring with laughter at my screening. There’s a wonderful event at the end where a particular character gets a swift helping of justice to the face and the reaction of the crowd was “AAAOOOOWWWWW!!” followed by laughter. Hearing an entire room react in one way was fantastic so I strongly recommend you see this film with a bunch of mates. There are also a couple of wonderfully awkward, honest sex scenes, a personal favourite of mine.
As with 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up before it there is more here than just a comedy. There’s also a very touching coming of age drama to be found here along with a pointing out of the worth of the more outcast characters from the high school archetype. The strongest non-comedic element is clearly how Seth and Evan are going to deal with being split up after high school, having spent nearly all of their time together before this. This is dealt with very well and the two leads carry the more emotional scenes very well and the ending is genuinely moving. The dramatic ending isn’t as strong as Knocked Up (perhaps forgivable given it was written when Rogen and Goldberg were 14) and feels a little tacked on but is still worthwhile.
One other outstanding aspect of this film is the soundtrack. It’s pretty much perfect. Although the setting is clearly modern the soundtrack is decidedly retro and this works unbelievably well. You notice the quality of the tracks but they never interfere with what is happening on screen. This is a real accomplishment.
Superbad succeeds in its principal target of being extremely funny but this sidelines its more serious undertones and prevents it from being truly exceptional.
In Brief: Superbad is an extremely funny high school comedy with an excellent soundtrack but suffers from too much improvisation and, in my opinion, a protagonist lacking in charm.
Originally posted Sunday, 23 September 2007.