Review: Superbad

Just when you thought the raunchy teen comedy was dead and buried, here comes "Superbad" (IMDb listing) with its frontal assault of sex, drinking, nerds, chases, mischief, drugs, cursing, high school, bad fashions, gunfire, liquor store robbery, lube, separation anxiety, romance, and laser-precise portrayal of adolescent friendship. It makes one wonder what the world saw in that piece of muddled garbage titled "American Pie" not so long ago.

Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) are two best friends living out their final weeks of high school before they face the future at different colleges. When the opportunity to attend a rowdy party is presented by the objects of their desire, they offer to buy the booze, forcing the guys to include dork Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) simply because he's the proud owner of a new fake ID. What transpires next is a citywide expedition involving misbehaving cops (scene-stealers Seth Rogan and Bill Hader), detergent-bottled booze, miscommunication, and desperation as the boys power their way through the night to realize their dream of inebriated sex with their dream ladies.

Make no mistake, "Superbad" is a caustic, frighteningly obscene teen comedy that spits on and completely ignores the lines of taste. It's a rowdy film, another product from the three-ring circus of producer Judd Apatow, acting as a curious counterweight to the similarly crewed-up "Knocked Up" from earlier this summer. All expectation of sensitivity and kindness should be placed aside when walking into this unruly picture.

Directed by Apatow vet Greg Mottola, "Superbad" is informed by a strange '70s exploitation vibe, from the retro Columbia Pictures' logo to the sickly brown color scheme of the cinematography. Perhaps this is in service of the film's ribald and ironic hipster swagger in a manner that recalls the cult hits of perversion back in the days when the MPAA was a little more compassionate to young eyes. It really doesn't matter what Mottola, along with writers Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, is searching for in this anachronistic journey when the film is this agreeably fearless with vulgarity and teen-flavored cravings for all things taboo.

Capturing the mysterious pit of erection-led shame that lies deep inside every self-conscious young man, "Superbad," as ridiculous as it gets, remains the most truthful portrayal of uncut teenage thinking put to the screen since "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." The high school details are insane; Rogan and Goldberg know precisely where to reach when encapsulating the fears and social anxiety that absorb Seth and Evan at every stop, setting them loose inside this uproarious "Alice in Wonderland" nighttime journey where the promise of legendary sexual conquest propels them through misadventures of every sort, including dangerous parties with questionable men, irresponsible dance partners (the picture's biggest exclamation point), and careless interactions with the police. The screenplay observes that one-note, mindless sprint toward a realization of fantasy superbly, along with capturing the profane banter of teenagers who prefer a blunt edge to their communication.

"Superbad" is actually two movies, one following Seth and Evan trying to find alcohol and face their future apart, and the other featuring Fogell and the cops. Both are pitch-perfect, intermittently diseased subplots demonstrating the theory that whatever could go wrong will go wrong, but I'm partial to Fogell's odyssey from a spaz to a triumphant stud, all courtesy of a fraudulent Hawaiian driver's license that reads "McLovin." His misadventures with the psycho cops are the film's most powerhouse moments of hilarity.

At nearly two hours, "Superbad" can be exhausting, particularly when Mottola can't locate the perfect note on which to end the madness. I'm also suspect of the screenplay's attempt to shovel in pathos for Seth and Evan and their friendship crisis, perhaps overlooking the cacophony of menstrual blood and vomit jokes that rolled by in earlier sections of the film (including the Odessa Steps of drunken teen lust makeout sequences), therefore neutering any lukewarm pass at emotional reality. "Superbad" soon wants to be many things, like a person who won't let the party end; but it's always ferociously first-class when it's just lounging around strange and funny. This is a sharply observed blast of ribald escapism, one of the best teen-centric films ever made.

Filmfodder Grade: A-