It’s the end of high school. There are graduation parties. Unfortunately for Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera), they’re not invited. See, they’re not exactly well-regarded by the popular kids at the school, although the reason for this isn’t explained. Perhaps it’s because they hang out with the nerdy Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), although since they show contempt for him whenever he shows up, I wasn’t entirely sure.
In home economics class, Seth gets a new partner for the day, Jules (Emma Stone), who invites the pair to her house party that’s happening that night. Seth tells her that he’ll be able to bring her alcohol because he plans to acquire a fake ID (although really it’s Fogell’s), and the two seem to hit it off. Evan is hoping to finally tell the girl he likes, Becca (Martha MacIsaac) how he really feels, and Fogell is just hoping for someone to see how cool he really is. As you can see, the relationships in this movie are super complex. That’s high school for you.
Anyway, it’s when the attempted purchase of the alcohol comes up when Superbad really takes off. Through a series of misunderstandings and complexities, Fogell winds up in the back of a police car, while Seth and Evan head to another party to steal some booze since Fogell seemingly didn’t come through with the purchase. They think he got arrested for trying to use a fake ID, but in reality, he’s getting a ride with the cops because they made miss his bus. There was a robbery, and he was assaulted. The cops (Seth Rogan and Bill Hader), are very chill guys, abusing their badge and not taking the whole “being a cop” thing all that seriously.
So, for most of the film, we have two stories running parallel. The first involves Seth and Evan attempting to find an alternate way of acquiring alcohol for the party, while the other has Fogell running around town with possibly the worst cops out there. It’s all leading up to the inevitable party, but the condition of the characters when they arrive is what you’re really looking out for here.
There are a lot of “crazy” situations scattered throughout Superbad . To be fair to the film, the inventiveness of its situations is something to applaud, and it manages to keep up a fairly manic pace for most of its runtime. There is usually a lot going on, which is always a plus for this type of movie. Some of the things that happen need to be seen instead of explained, so I’ll avoid getting into too many specifics.
But once you get past the wackiness, what do you have left? Surprisingly, just enough to still be a decent movie. Superbad is actually concerned with its characters, not just with what they’re presented with, which means that when the pace dies down and character moments are thrown in, they work. It’s hard to actually like any of these people, save for perhaps the cartoon character cops, but you still, for whatever reason, want to see them all succeed. You spend so much time with them that you learn what’s going on behind all of the four-letter words and sexual references, and you understand that they all put on a facade. There’s actually a lot of heart in this film, which is surprisingly considering most of the characters’ goals involved (1) finding a girl (2) getting the girl drunk and (3) having sex with the girl.
Unfortunately, none of the zany situations and deeper-than-you’d-expect characters lead to anything that’s all that funny. The only time I laughed was during a dream sequence in which Seth envisioned different ways in which he might walk into a store and either steal, buy or otherwise acquire the alcohol he needed. I won’t give away what happens during them, but I was disappointed to find that it was a one-off gag. The rest of the film is simply unfunny, or at least it was to me. Sure, it’s ridiculous, and at times sweet, but the humor just didn’t appeal to me. Sometimes that just happens, and you start looking at the other aspects of the film. Luckily for Superbad , it holds up elsewhere.
I have to object to the ending, which involved certain implications that were unnecessary. not because of what they are, but because it’s only at the end when they’re implied at all. The ending also should have brought along Fogell for the aftermath conversation, which would have been interesting, but instead, it doesn’t do that. You can’t win them all, I suppose, and if I did want to see everyone meet up at the end, the film did a good enough job of getting me to care about unlikable people.
Superbad is ultimately a success, even if I didn’t find it all that funny. It works because it’s worried more about the characters and the situations that their antics get them into, rather than just the situations themselves. It’s a change that makes the difference between wanting to ignore the film and wanting to give it a hug. Superbad ends up making you feel the latter, which is surprising, especially considering how these characters act for most of the film’s running time.