The dual-review film criticism site: first a spoiler-free review, then an in-depth Alternate Take.
Superbad

Reviewed by Jim Holden.

Director Greg Mottola
Length 112 mins
Certificate 15
Rating *******---
Filmmaking: 3  Personal enjoyment: 4

Photo from the article Coming across as a mix of Dazed and Confused (1993) and American Pie (1999), and created by Seth Rogen (star of last month’s Knocked Up), Superbad is a funny, nostalgic, offensive, but finally surprisingly sweet-natured film about growing up male, making life decisions and, simply, trying to have sex.

The film follows the lives of three friends on one of their last days of high school: lifelong buddies Seth (Johan Hill) and Evan (Arrested Development’s Michael Cera), and uber-geek Fogal. Struggling to make an impact on school society, and unpopular with girls, they decide to illegally acquire alcohol for a party in a last-ditch effort to be cool. As well as following the characters’ attempts to find the booze, the narrative also focuses on one of the guys’ adventures with two slack police officers (played by Rogan and Bill Hader). This juxtaposition gives many excuses for both comic scenarios and intelligently wry views of teen life. Seth and Evan’s ever more desperate attempts to find alcohol eventually betray the depths of their friendship, while Fogal’s stint with the cops is the more purely comic of the two plots; the fine depiction of this scared, nervous geek shows Fogal as the average nerd, before finally turning this motif hilariously on its head.

Due to the fact that Rogan and co-writer Evan Goldberg wrote the screenplay when they themselves were in high school (even giving their own names to the lead characters), the film is at times unsurprisingly puerile, featuring many jokes about - though never quite purely at the expense of - woman and homosexuality. However, Superbad is, at times, a moderately mature and compassionate movie, if unrepentantly focused on the adolescent male alone (unlike Knocked Up, there are few hints here that women also have interior lives and issues). Like an updated Dazed and Confused, it is also a film full of cautious nostalgia for adolescence, particularly in its presentation of the alternately brutal and sweet relationship between Evan and Seth, which convinces fully. For all the deft dick jokes and screwball scenarios, it is finally this genuine underlying warmth that raises the film above the usual terrain of teen comedy.

Like Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) before it (both of which also starred Rogan and were directed by Judd Apatow - here on producer duty), Superbad first gives the impression of being a broad comedy, but deepens as it progresses, and repays repeated viewings, due to its juxtaposition of immature (and very funny) comedy with an effective and affecting sense of pathos.

Alternate Take to follow soon...

This review was published on October 05, 2007.

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