Saturday, August 18, 2007

Not Another Teen Movie

When the police show up at the liquor store as you try to buy $100 of booze with a fake ID, you know you’re in trouble. But it may not be until you realize that these are the two most dunderheaded cops on the planet – willing to throw you in the middle of a bar brawl, give you cigarettes and beer, and let you fire a loaded weapon, that you know you’re really in trouble. Of course if you’re a 17-year-old super-geek, that all may just seem cool.

So it goes for Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) aka McLovin, according to his fake ID, who reluctantly signs up to provide the much lauded alcohol for friends Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera). Having promised Jules (Emma Stone) that he’d deliver the goods for her party, Seth makes it his end goal to follow through no matter what – with his real agenda being to get Jules to sleep with him. Ditto, to a lesser degree, for Evan, who also has his eyes on the prize – Becca (Martha MacIssac).

And while many a teen flick – okay, nearly every teen flick – focuses on the sexual frustrations of 17-year-olds, watching “Superbad” can often seem like watching an extended version of the male genitalia-referencing montages from the “Austin Powers” movies. It’s the quest of “Harold and Kumar Go To While Castle” peppered with the dirty language of “Clerks,” backed with the underlying friendship story of “Swingers.” Seth’s nasty sex references and foul-mouthed tirades might give Jason Mewes a run for his money.

It’s really Evan’s oblivious (and only occasional) charm and the subplot about the boys’ deep friendship that make the film worth watching. Underneath all the sexual schlock, shocking situations, blood, fistfights, vomit, and beer, is a story of needy young boys on the brink of separation into the next phases of their lives. However, having to cut through all that aforementioned stuff — and there’s a lot – “Superbad” really doesn’t seem aimed at (or, dare I say, even appropriate for) teens. “Superbad”’s sweet-spot demographic is 20-25 year old boys.

While the movie may internally redeem itself and wrap up with a hearty message, “Superbad” alternates between utter ridiculousness (every scene involving cops Slater and Michaels – played by Bill Hader and Seth Rogen) and uncomfortable repressed feelings (every scene involving Becca). The film truly shines when it catches the characters letting their guard down – in the “true friendship revealed” sleeping bag scene between the best friends – and when it takes an unexpected turn – catching Evan locked in the back room of a house party with cocaine-snorting strangers who force him into a chorus of The Who’s “These Eyes.” But these scenes may be entirely outweighed by the other sort.

In short, if you are not a 25-year-old boy, “Superbad” may push you to the brink of uncomfortability, eschewing suggestive language for in-your-face description. But if you are a 25-year-old-boy with a very cloudy memory of what high school was actually like –
get ready for a wild ride and one night of really bad decision-making.

(A Side Note: The 70s B-movie opening graphics, along with the title, and some of the music all seem to suggest that this film could be a reflection on the writers’ youth (I mean it seems like a good guess given that the leads are named Seth and Evan) – but realizing that writer Seth Rogen is 25, and Evan Goldberg doesn’t look much older than that – it seems that the 70s coating may have been an afterthought for marketing purposes.)


Huey said...

Superbad was pretty awesome, but I guess you're right -- I am in the target demo.

Cliff said...

um...isn't "25 year old boy" an oxymoron? I'm just saying...