Pros: interesting story, engaging main characters, good amount of laughs
Cons: silliness of the cops subplot, not much else
Almost every generation has a film that supposedly captures a period of time in your life, and gives you something that will be a basis for nostalgia once life slows down and becomes a lot less fun and exciting. Following in the footsteps of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, Clueless, and American Pie, Superbad is a movie that seems to want to be the high school sex comedy/gross-out film for the current crop of high schoolers and freshmen in college.
Superbad tells the story of two high school seniors who have been best friends for most of their lives. They are so close that if half of all married couples had as much love and mutual respect, divorce rates wouldn't be nearly as high as they are. With graduation coming in 3 weeks, Seth and Evan are looking forward to leaving high school and having a great summer before heading off to college. As with most high school seniors, the boys have a few misconceptions about college. In this case, they - well, mostly Seth - imagine that if they wind up going off to college as virgins, their college experience will be doomed to failure. So they begin a quest to get to some parties and hook up with girls to take care of this problem. In the process, they get invited to a big upcoming party at the house of a girl Seth likes. Seth, being a bit of a loudmouth, tells Jules he can take care of getting booze for her party, and she gives him $100 and a list of what to get. In the meantime, Evan also tells the girl he likes, Becca, that he can pick up some drinks for her as well. With a suitable amount of liquor, Seth figures they'll be able to get the girls drunk enough to have sex with them.
Of course, there's just one problem; they are underage and have no way to get the liquor! Their solution comes in the most unthinkable way - Seth and Evan's geeky friend Fogell informs them he is on his way to get a fake I.D.
Seth and Evan meet up with Fogell after school to get the liquor. But Fogell develops a case of cold feet, which is compounded by the fact that his fake I.D. makes him a 25 year old resident of Hawaii named McLovin (no first name - just McLovin). The guys give him a quick pep talk and the $100, and send him into a liquor store. Unfortunately for them, the store is robbed while McLovin is in it, and when the police come, they assume McLovin got busted. Now they are out the $100 and have no booze to bring to the party.
The rest of the movie becomes an adventure in which the boys are challenged through a series of occurrences. The story also deals with the subplot of Seth feeling like he is losing his best friend, as Evan is going to Dartmouth and Seth got rejected and will be going to a local college.
Fogell isn't forgotten after they leave him back at the liquor store. It seems the two bumbling cops who respond to the robbery call think Fogell really is McLovin, and they take him along on their shift for the night of his life.
Superbad is more of a coming of age buddy film, in my opinion, than the sex comedy I thought it was going to be. There's actually very little sex going on at all. Deep down, under layers of vulgarity and some slapstick humor, this really is a story about friendship. Seth and Evan are closer than brothers, but they are realizing that growing up means even the best friendships evolve or fall away into memories. And while the vulgarity - as well as McLovin's adventures with the inept cops - makes it a fun movie with some laugh-out-loud moments, I think it's the characters of Seth and Evan that carry the film. Seth (played by Jonah Hill) is kind of a loud, self-centered fat guy who is a good person but has trouble showing it. He also seems quite worried about what others think. Evan (Michael Cera)is just an awesome, kind, sensitive kid who anyone would love to have as a friend. Examples of their personalities come out in the way they feel when they think Fogell has been pinched at the liquor store; Seth worries about what will happen if they don't figure out another way to get the booze and be the life of the party, while Evan worries about how scared Fogell must be.
The story line about Seth thinking they need to get laid to somehow be more ready for life after high school has been done so many times in the past that it feels a little forced and stale here. Of course, current high school kids who haven't seen the teen movies of earlier generations will probably find it fresh and interesting.
The look of Superbad is good, but led to some initial confusion on my part. The movie is set in the present day, but the name, the opening credit graphics and music, and some of the trailers I'd seen all led me to think this was going to be set in the late 70s or maybe the early 80s. It kind of had a disco-y, Boogie Nights feel to it. Of course, in the 70s and 80s kids like Seth and Evan, who are pretty nerdy in a lot of ways, would have almost no chance to get invited to a "cool kids" party. Kids seem much more accepting and tolerant of all groups these days (at least to my untrained eye). There is one early scene in the film that shows Seth getting picked on by an alpha-male type, but this isn't a prevalent theme throughout.
I thought the weakest part of the movie was the McLovin subplot. While it provides most of the rollicking fun in the film, it's also the part that makes it a little too silly to fit with the movie's overall theme. The cops (played by Bill Hader and Seth Rogen, who also co-wrote the story with Evan Goldberg) are just too unrealistic a stereotype of immature, stupid cops. They drink on duty, abuse their patrol car, and discharge their firearms for silly things such as seeing who can hit a stop sign. Also, any cop with half a brain would have spotted a teenager with the fake I.D. in two seconds. It's like their characters were rejects from Reno:911.
I saw Superbad on DVD as an unrated version of the theatrical release. It was originally rated R for "pervasive crude and sexual content, strong language, drinking, some drug use and a fantasy/comic violent image - all involving teens" according to the MPAA. While I'm no prude, I would have to say this definitely isn't suited for kids under 13.
Overall, I found Superbad to be a really fun movie with a lot of laughs and a touching story of friendship blended into the goofiness.