Superbad is a movie for those among us who, in high school, felt sad, angry and lonely because they felt no one liked them. It remembers both the pain and the complete absence of delight in those adolescent years. It is uniquely authentic in its depiction of the high school social structure, both in terms of characterisation and the fierce intelligence and underdeveloped emotional strength the heroes have.

It's also often deliriously funny and touching. In spite of all its latent foul-mouthedness, hearts of poets beat strongly - much as in Kevin Smith's debut, Clerks. Superbad is wise, and has little affection for anything other than close friends, which it makes up for entirely. Reminiscent of George Lucas' American Graffiti (and a sprinkling of American Pie), the movie chronicles three close friends' final night of high school. Like the upcoming Death Proof, Superbad chooses to evoke the style and sensitivities (a psychedelic opening sequence, some clever shots reminiscent of the cinema of the period) of its inspiration yet embraces modern language and keeps its trappings at arm's length. In short, friendship is timeless. The main pair, Seth and Evan, complement each other superbly - dealing with separation as fate deals them into separate colleges - with a delightfully dissociated set of performances.

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Jonah Hill, as Seth, is a roly-poly motormouth capable of pouring out peerlessly offensive speeches, while Michael Cera as Evan is a tall, skinny, intelligent and repressed wet blanket. It recalls, oh-so-briefly, Laurel and Hardy's double-act, and their chemistry and co-dependent performances easily convince us that they've been friends for years, far more so than a verbal explanation could. The movie is terribly insightful, in that teenage boys recall their deepest and truest loves for their best and closest friends; girls are a secondary pleasure, of which discussion is open, rabid and frank - these inexperienced boys do not know any better. That is how it was for me. Well, that minus a dreamlike stream of uproarious slapstick and knob jokes.

The third, even more ostracised - even by Seth and Evan's standards - friend is Fogel (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). He has the smarts and the means to make a fake Hawaiian driver's licence (the only name printed on it - "McLovin"). Fogel's characterisation is also masterful, Mintz-Plasse reinventing the ultimate nerd for this generation.

Superbad follows in the footsteps of American Pie, in that these barely legal teens are chasing a shot at the girl of their dreams - but let's be clear, they're self-aware enough to know that their supposed love is fueled by adolescent infatuation and momentous crushes. Their only hope to be the "wrong guy" is an invite to a party from their mutual acquaintances, and the only way they'll get in is if they come with a small truckload of booze. Seth and Evan need Fogel's fake ID, or some other means at their disposal.

The movie focuses on this quest to come up with the goods - knitting the knowing friendship with the outrageous comedy adventure. The script is clearly somewhat autobiographical. Writers Rogen and Goldberg recall many details that make it refreshingly authentic. Everything from little painful, embarrassing secrets (a hand-drawn ode to phalluses) all the way to the never-forgotten first real sexual encounters. There's one face shot in there which reminded me of the shock, delight and unspeakably alien sensation of my previously virgin penis in its intended home.

Some stuff really is universal.

Similarly so with a bedroom scene with a nearly passed-out Seth and Evan, where they declare their simple, pure and true love for one another, free of sexuality. It's cringeworthy, delightfully funny and utterly touching at the same time. I honestly wish I'd written this movie, and I suspect a handful of people my age feel the same way.

Director Greg Mottola keeps things moving very swiftly, keeping the story rattling on at a swift, well-cut pace. The only reason it ever slows down is for sentiment - which sometimes feels like a mistake; a coda for their adventure feels tacked-on - and the over-long cop scenes. There's a five star 90 minute movie here, which overruns to just under two hours.

Reviewed on: 11 Sep 2007
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An ode to friendship in the final night of high-school leads to a party never to be forgotten.
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Read more Superbad reviews:

Stephen Carty ****
Merlin Harries ****

Director: Greg Mottola

Writer: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg

Starring: Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bill Hader, Seth Rogen, Martha MacIsaac, Emma Stone, Aviva Farber, Joe Lo Truglio, Kevin Corrigan, Clement Blake

Year: 2007

Runtime: 114 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: USA

Festivals:

SSFF 2012

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If you like this, try:

The 40 Year Old Virgin
Clerks
Stand By Me