Review: Superbad

Michael Cera’s first splash into Hollywood came with the chronically underwatched, yet critically acclaimed cult hit Arrested Development, in which Cera played the neurotic, awkward, though undeniably likeable George Michael Bluth. During the three seasons it was on the air, Cera developed a flair for impeccable comedic timing in portraying a fully capable adolescent that just lacked in self-confidence.

Cera incorporates a more raunchy dialect, but maintains his shy demeanor in Superbad, where Cera plays Evan, a graduating high school senior bound for Dartmouth. Evan and his best friend, Seth (Jonah Hill), are two bottom feeders when it comes to the social totem-pole at school. So when Jules (Emma Stone) invites Seth to her graduation party, Seth, who has had a crush on her for quite some time, not only accepts, but also offers to stock her party full of booze. As it turns out, Evan’s crush, Becca (Martha MacIsaac), will also be at the party, and she wants Evan to get her some alcohol too. The two view it as a last opportunity for two pale, friendless virgins to get some before shipping off to college.

Still, even as low as Seth and Evan are on the social hierarchy, they still try to avoid a third-wheel named Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), that is, until they find out that Fogell has stumbled upon a fake ID and can get them the necessary booze to win their way into their crush’s hearts. The one problem, Fogell – in the spirit of Seal, Madonna and that guy with the funny hair from last season of American Idol – has gotten an ID with only one name on it: “McLovin.”

So, the plot is simple. Get the booze. Get to the party. Get laid. This is the goal of any high school guy on the cusp of leaving for college.

Of course, things don’t go as planned. The liquor buy predictably goes bad, and Fogell ends up with two polices officers that, unlike other movies of this kind, are not bullies, but rather two guys who haven’t outlived their college days trying to show Fogell a good time. Meanwhile, Evan and Seth end up at a separate party with cocaine and blood (although the blood part, I’ll save for when you actually see the movie) in an attempt to score liquor.

The duo of Evan and Seth is an easy sell. Whereas the lean Evan is quiet and more easy-going, heavyset Seth is the perfect counterpoint, who curses almost as much as he acts out his libido. It’s like listening to your ID and Superego for two hours in the comical world of adolescent sex.
Still, the movie belongs to Cera – who in the world of Will Ferrell, Owen Wilson and Adam Sandler – has carved out a slice of the movie industry where you can garner laughs while still being a self-aware, kind-spirited character. Out of that list, Ferrell is perhaps the most annoying and irritable actor, playing the same inept buffoon with no shortage in misguided confidence.

Cera is the mirror opposite, using situational awkwardness and well-timed outbursts. “Imagine if girls weren’t weirded out by our boners, but actually wanted to look at them. I want to live in that world,” Evan laments. I doubt Mr. Wilson or Mr. Sandler could deliver a line with such humorous tact.

Superbad reaches beyond a movie that just fishes for laughs; it also is an analysis of two childhood friends who have reached a major junction in their relationship. Both are headed to separate colleges and are in denial about the upcoming change. They avoid the issue and push off the impeding blowout between the two, mostly because neither can properly articulate their feelings.

That all changes by the finish. After a wild night of successfully delivering the booze and admitting their true feelings toward their crushes, they also cathartically open up toward one another. Evan and Seth admit that they will miss each other, and things will never be quite the same. Admitting the change is an important step into adulthood.

Of course, that isn’t always a bad thing. Passing through adolescence is a harrowing experience, and the two are more than ready to leave it behind. And that is the essence of the film. Amidst the raunchy humor and profanity laced tirades about the opposite sex, the movie at its core is a movie about two friends who are growing up, and ready to take the next step.

Rating: ***

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