Superbad is really, really funny; funny like funny-from-beginning-to-end funny, funny like out-of-shape persons like myself will feel laughter fatigue after leaving the theater type funny. The film has been plenty hyped, and for good reason; it doesn’t disappoint. My tendency is to judge a film’s greatness on the last 30 minutes–plenty of films deliver a solid opening based on an interesting premise that eventually falls flat. Superbad resuscitates a hackneyed premise, injecting it with genuine heart and soul, plenty of jokes, and, magically, an ending that doesn’t make you go “meh.”
I won’t bother going over the details of the plot: it’s essentially the same as any other teen sex comedy (think Porky’s and American Pie). Heroes Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse shine as the freaks and geeks trying to score some booze in the hopes of getting laid, and SNL’s Bill Hader and screen writer Seth Rogan play two rotten cops who balance the young trio’s misguided attempts to navigate the adult world.
Underneath the rough profanity and crass humor of Superbad is, of course, a tender spirit of love and comradery tempered by the requisite sense of loss that attends the ending of any era (in this case, the end of high school). Homosociality dominates the film in every aspect, figuring most strongly in the changing relationship between Evan (Michael Cera), who’s off to Dartmouth next year, and Seth (Jonah Hill) who’s bound for “State.” The homosocial undercurrent is most neatly summed up in the penis motif that runs through the film, although an especially tender scene between Evan and Seth near the end also stands out as a perfect evocation and identification of platonic male love. While other teen sex comedies fall into gay-panic jokes (American Pie again), Superbad presents homosociality as unthreatening, even when it falls out of the culturally normative balance. And by the end of the movie, Seth and Evan do manage to reach a culturally normative balance, sundering their codependency in order to try meaningful relationships with girls. It’s a happy ending.
Like American Grafitti, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Dazed and Confused before it, Superbad is a teens-growing-up comedy that transcends its genre; undoubtedly it will be revered for years to come. Besides, it’s really fucking funny. Highly recommended.
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