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Superbad (2007)

by on 2011/09/21

 “That was a little too far right there.”

* * *

Superbad begs for facetious psychoanalysis. I feel a slight impulse to write about how its “heroes” represent the struggles and relationship between the teenage id and ego. Honestly, though, that approach may be more work than it’s worth.

It’s probably obvious: I wasn’t superimpressed.

Given the relatively good word of mouth from this recent Judd Apatow product — as well as its showcasing the talents of Canadian wunderkinds Seth Rogen (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) and Michael Cera (Juno) — I had high hopes when I first saw it. Unfortunately, those hopes went largely unmet, and remain unsalvaged with a second viewing.

The star is ostensibly Jonah Hill as Seth, clearly based on Rogen himself. He and his inseparable friend Evan (Cera) are seniors on the verge of graduation. Obsessed with little beyond drinking, pornography, and provocation, they rail against the fear of post-secondary separation by chasing after, well, alcohol, girls, and parties.

Of course the path from beginning to end becomes fraught with complications. It’s all reminiscent of a variant on the Harold and Kumar series, with more swearing and less sense. These heroes are dense, phenomenally so, and never completely deserving of the happy ending they seek.

For me, the true heart of the story was the misadventure of Fogell “McLovin” (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a nerd’s nerd, pure-ish of heart, but inept. His attempts to be edgy are practically adorable. He procures a fake ID with a suspicious alias, an unlikely birthdate, and an out-of-state registration. Narratively required to supply the means to booze, his thread becomes the most engrossing part of the whole.

The accidental relationship he forms with two ne’er-do-well police officers (Rogen and Bill Hader) provides such disproportionate humour, he probably should have been named in the title.

  • McLovin’s Guide to Life
  • A Night in the Life of McLovin
  • The Superbad Times of McLovin

Anything but just Superbad, a label desperately inviting critique.

The ending is reasonably satisfying, however late it arrives, and however unlikely it seems. And hearing Cera warble Guess Who’s “These Eyes” to a roomful of cokeheads is even more fun.

Yet, for every moment of promise or potential, the majority subverts or undoes it. There are genuine talents in the cast and crew, including Rogen, who cowrote the script. And while I’ve enjoyed Hill elsewhere — Forgetting Sarah Marshall for starters — here his Seth is relentlessly toxic, so much so he made watching a chore. My favourite of his scenes, to be perfectly frank, were the ones where he was struck, or run over, or otherwise hurt. It happens a lot. Maybe the filmmakers hate him too.

Overall, and in Hill’s absence, Superbad was not poor, but neither was it anything special. A surfeit of “passable” sprinkled with more disparaging adjectives — awful, awkward, crude, gross, juvenile, and offensive — it remains watchable, largely redeemed by the subplot’s McLovin.

* * *

Rated 18A (Canada)

119 minutes (Unrated Extended Edition)

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