Superbad

WFTB Score: 5/20

The plot: Their school-lives nearly at an end, fast friends Seth and Evan face up to divergent futures. But before they separate, Seth is determined to go out with a bang, using the opportunity of a house party to get sex for himself and Evan. Buying booze for the party sets in train a wild night – though not in the way he hoped.

BFFs Seth and Evan (Jonah Hill and Michael Cera) are about to head off to college; but while high-flying Evan is off to Dartmouth with prize geek Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), sex-obsessed Seth is destined to be left behind. To keep the imminent separation from his mind, Seth tries to ensure he gets laid as soon as possible; and despite not being natural partygoers, an opportunity presents itself when pretty Jules (Emma Stone) asks Seth to buy booze for a party at her house, using Fogell and his fake ID which improbably calls him ‘McLovin’.

For Evan, the evening could be the chance he needs to get with Becca (Martha MacIsaac); but nothing about the operation goes smoothly. ‘McLovin’ is assaulted at the liquor store, bringing himself to the attention of unexpectedly friendly cops Michaels and Slater (Seth Rogen and Bill Hader), who take him out on duty, and on the lash, by way of compensation. Seth and Evan panic and end up, via a clumsy driver, gate-crashing an intimidating party, from which Seth unwisely tries to steal booze. Although tensions about the future re-surface, the boys escape with their lives and re-unite with Fogell, getting to Jules’ party with most of the drinks intact. However, the amount of booze already consumed by many of the partygoers leads to some disappointing and messy outcomes.

I first saw Superbad late at night with friends after a couple of beers, and couldn’t see what everyone was raving about. Sure, it had a certain nostalgia value, trading on the viewer’s memories (or, more likely, anticipation) of heady adolescence, when sex and alcohol present themselves in a strangely co-dependent fashion. But wasn’t it coarse, needlessly long, and borderline misogynistic? Watching it with a clear head more than confirms my first impressions. At its core, Superbad is an uncomplicated bromance, based on the friendship between writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, dealing with best friends who are heading in different directions but want to ’become men’ before they go. So far, so American Pie: but whereas the Weitz brothers’ film gives us fleshed-out characters of both sexes, and places sex in its proper perspective, Seth and Evan are essentially one-dimensional horndogs, treating women as little more than receptacles for their fluids while struggling with their higher feelings for each other.

Yes, the joke is ultimately on Seth and Evan when their big night turns sour – they talk the talk, yet flunk out when push comes to shove, so to speak – but the majority of the film is so aggressively dismissive of women, so keen to appeal to (and occasionally show) pornographic fantasies, that I found Seth’s loving attentions towards Evan a pitiful attempt to redress the balance by giving the boys ‘heart‘. Though Stone and MacIsaac are pleasant enough, neither Jules nor Becca are given believable motivation for their actions, and the coda is just ridiculous: Jules remains sweet on Seth after he’s – albeit accidentally – headbutted her? Sorry, don’t buy it.

The rest of the story’s not much better. Aside from to move the plot along, I didn’t believe Seth and Evan had any reason to get in Joe Lo Truglio’s car, given that he’s plainly an unstable weirdo; and I wasn’t much amused by or involved in any of the events at the party they gatecrash (the whole section could have been cut to tighten up the movie). Meanwhile, Fogell/McLovin’s adventures with Slater and Michaels are funnier, if only because the geeky youngster (played gleefully by Mintz-Plasse) is such an unlikely ally to the cops; but even here, a sourness about women permeates the discussion (they’re mostly whores, apparently). While Hader and Rogen’s freewheeling banter feels refreshingly improvised at first, their goofing off gets so loose, and so undisciplined, that it soon becomes tiresome. It also means that neither of them are remotely believable as cops.

Mottola also falls into the trap he would repeat in Paul, namely filling the entire, overlong running time with constant swearing in the mistaken belief that it’s unfailingly funny. In fact, here it’s even worse, because Rogen and Goldberg’s body-part and porn-obsessed dialogue doesn’t sound it would realistically come from either Cera or Hill, who are (to look at, at least) both essentially sweet lads.

The big joke about Seth, apart from his ridiculous, oafish libido, is that he had a mania for drawing penises as a child. Indeed, a gallery’s worth of penis drawings accompanies the closing credits, and if you guffaw heartily at these, you’ve probably had a great time throughout the movie. I did laugh a few times, mainly at Mintz-Plasse, but otherwise found Superbad a depressingly onanistic experience: a movie for dicks, about dicks, made by dicks.

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5 thoughts on “Superbad

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