Movie News & Reviews

Superbad captures the innocence of youth

Prior to "Superbad," if I'd ever uttered the words "thought-provokingteen sex romp," I'd have punched myself.

Not in the face, because I'd probably wuss out at the last second andjust slap my cheek, but a good solid rib-shot, at least. Somethingthat would induce pain without damaging my celebrity career as someguy with his picture on a website. Teens trying to get lucky may attimes be funny, but in terms of things that help us understandourselves, movies like "Porky's" and "American Pie" are about asuseful as an empty beer can.

Which doesn't matter so long as they're funny and have some memorablescenes and characters. And "Superbad," directed by Greg Mottola andproduced by super-stud Judd Apatow, has lots of these things.

Jonah Hill and Michael Cera (of "Arrested Development" fame) are twosemi-nerdy high schoolers whose uber-nerdy friend ChristopherMintz-Plasse gets a fake ID. In the volatile world of teenagerdom,this immediately vaults them to potential hero status, as the girlsthey're after are throwing a party and need someone to bring them thebooze that will make the party worth attending.

Booze-buying's a simple enough task once you've existed for 21 yearsand are thus deemed mature enough to exchange money for beer, but forthe kids it's an odyssey. At the liquor store, Mintz-Plasse getsentangled with a couple of the worst cops since "Bad Lieutenant" (BillHader and Seth Rogen, who co-wrote with partner Evan Goldberg) whileHill and Cera head for an adult party that's supposed to be brimmingwith stealable liquor.

For better or worse, improv dominates comedies these days, and"Superbad's" an example of how hard that can rule--though thatshouldn't exactly come as a surprise, since Judd Apatow is like amodern-day King Midas, only instead of turning movies to gold he turnsthem to hilarious. Pretty soon there is going to be a specific termfor the excitement around his productions. Something like "Juddlust." Bank on it.

Though it's got some gross-out gags, mostly it's the cast that'sfunny. Hill makes so many dick jokes that in order for a movie tohave more dick jokes it would pretty much have to be a 90-minute dickjoke. Cera's quiet delivery seems to catch every line off guard.Rogen and Hader's cops are so dimwittedly negligent they get intolevels of anarchy unseen since the Marx Bros.

Generally, party movies have a strong pro-party platform, citingthings like the awesomeness of chugging something and then shouting"Woo!", how cool it is to jump into a pool fully clothed, and thecorrelation between drunkenness and nakedness, but "Superbad's" takeon booze is a little trickier.

Alcohol makes all the movie's adults act like stupendous jackasses(true), but to the kids it's the coolest thing in the world (alsotrue). It makes everyone do stupid things they regret by daylight,but it also helps bring them closer together. Hill seems to thinkit's the source of all fun in the world; he's not wrong, exactly, it'sjust that he hasn't experienced enough to know the whole story.

With that insight and some brutal satire of school, authority, andadulthood, it's almost jarring whenever "Superbad" cuts back to thecops' and Mintz-Plasse's descent into crazyland. Those scenes arehilarious, but at times it's almost like they're part of a differentmovie that's tremendously funny and a whole lot further removed fromreality.

Is that a bad thing? Kind of. Because at heart, "Superbad's" aboutthe friendship of a couple kids who are going to have to finishgrowing up without each other. That isn't clear until the very lastshot, but that shot changes everything that's come before it,suggesting we can't understand the cost of becoming an adult untilit's already passed us by.

Grade: A-