Classic Movie Review: Superbad (2007)

This review will likely contain "spoilers" for this 13 year old movie. If you are sensitive to that and have not watched Superbad, come back to this after you've watched it.

Superbad is about best friends Seth and Evan, with their tagalong Fogell, who are on a quest. They want to impress the girls they've been crushing on and maybe get them interested, or drunk enough, to have sex with them at a party. The night doesn't go as planned and when the pair finally make it to the party, there's a rift between them that looks like it may never heal. The film stars Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bill Hader, Seth Rogen, Martha MacIsaac, Aviva Baumann, and Emma Stone. It is directed by Greg Mottola and is written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

At it's heart, Superbad is the exact film I've been praising in reviews for a while now. It's a platonic love story. A lot of Superbad is about posturing. That's the high school experience in a nutshell. You pretend to be some one or something you don't fully understand in order to get someone to like you either romantically or as a friend. For Evan and Seth, they can talk about anything and everything except for their feelings. It's easier not to. It's easier for them to put on the facade and talk about things that really don't matter. It takes the inhibition shedding effects of alcohol for them to really open up. They can say why they're mad, why it hurts to be left behind, why they chose someone familiar rather than the unknown, and to finally say, I love you, without qualification.

The story earns everyone of its sincere moments. It's got the wackiness, the still incredibly funny sequences, but the grounding of the narrative arc is believable. This being the first feature collaboration between Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, it shows the sensibilities they've developed as writers. It's even a testament to the excellent writing that the dialogue that's improvised feels organic and natural within this world. They've built realized and three dimensional characters.

Greg Mottola's additions as a director are also fantastic. He brings a sensitivity and sort of whimsy to the film. I love the use of the soul music and the confidence that drips from those lyrics, juxtaposed with riding the public bus. Mottola and cinematographer Russ T. Alsobrook have given the film that gritty '70s look to it as well. They borrow from those films for the fantasy sequences and the glorious slow motions throughout.

My favorite sequence of the film is probably the one that makes me the most tense. When Seth and Evan find themselves at an adult house party they get trapped and separated while trying to steal booze. Evan goes to a back bedroom to call Becca on a landline. A group of guys comes in excited about the fight and spoiling for another one. They start to do hard drugs and mistake Evan for someone else after they question him. This other person is apparently a great singer and Evan is forced to sing a tune for the group. The action cuts here to go back to Seth's half of the story, but the cut back to Evan is superb. He's singing everything he can remember of The Guess Who's "These Eyes." The whole group is singing along with him, but there's still this sense of danger that erupts when a guy breaks in to tell them there's the sought after fight breaking out. It's a wonderful bit of comedy.

That scene can also be used to highlight another great thing about Rogen and Goldberg's script. It's so tight that they're able to call back so many jokes and sequences from earlier. The guy working at the liquor store shows up at the house party. "These Eyes" is on the radio in the squad car moments after Evan sings it. Jesse the bully spits on Seth in the first few scenes and then spits on Slater only to get his comeuppance with a night stick to the head. When Fogell is getting ready to have sex with Nicola, he pulls out a condom and some spermicidal lube, the same items Evan brought with him for the possibilities with Becca. Francis, the guy who hits Seth with his car mentions Evan looks like this guy Jimmy's brother. This is a film that knows how well we pay attention and rewards us for it.

If I have to fault this movie for anything it's the mistake in the timeline for Seth's "dick drawing" affliction. If the pair have been friends as long as they say, the beginning of his and Evan's friendship would have overlapped by at least two years with the Becca tattling incident. So, why is Evan just hearing of this now? Wouldn't he have known about the drawings and the hyper evangelist principal if they went to the same school? The film ignores this history, for a weird and honestly really funny sequence, but its breaking of the history bothers me every time.

Superbad is crass, crude, hilarious, sweet, heartfelt, and an all around good time of a movie. It's a movie I may have seen over a dozen times, but makes me laugh as hard as it did when I first saw it. To this day I use "samesies" in regular conversation and with those in the know I quote some of my absolute favorite crass and disgusting lines. I also love, LOVE, that Rogen and Goldberg capture that high school reality that for everyone they talk about, they have to say a first and last name because they know many people by that first name. When Seth rattles off Jules' list of ex-boyfriends, it's perfection. This is a near perfect film for me and one I can pop on in any mood and feel twenty times better than before I started it. Seek this movie out if you haven't seen it in a while. It still holds up.

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