Long Live McLovin: Superbad at 10
I'm the cynical type to say that comedies never age well. Drama is eternal, humor is disposable. That's not to say that comedies aren't important, just that the things that made us laugh ten, twenty, forty years ago are not often the same things that make us laugh today. I was twelve years old in the theater watching Superbad having the time of my life and laughing my ass off. Over the years, I watched it countless times on DVD. I have a deep love for Superbad, but a decade later, how could it possibly have the same effect? The laugh lines are burned into my brain, beat by beat. Shock value is no longer a factor. I couldn't be happier to report that my fears were unfounded. Not only do a majority of the film's jokes still land, but it feels more fresh than most comedies made today.
Best friends Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) are on their last two weeks of high school before splitting up and heading to college. After a low effort day, they're invited out to their first real party by Seth's crush, Jules (Emma Stone). Hoping to impress Jules and Evan's crush Becca (Martha MacIsaac), they promise to get the alcohol for the party with their friend Fogell's (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) brand new fake ID. At the liquor store, Fogell runs off to drunkenly joyride with two delinquent cops (Bill Hader, Seth Rogen) and Seth and Evan are left behind to figure out how to get the alcohol on their own.
It's hard to imagine that nearly everybody in this movie was an unknown at the time (17-year-old Mintz-Plasse even got the illusive "Introducing..." credit). Cera & Rogen had cult status from Arrested Development and Freaks and Geeks, respectively, but the movie's biggest star was arguably Bill Hader, who was on his second year of SNL at the time. Not only are all of the leads current mega stars, but several notable actors (Dave Franco, Clark Duke, Martin Starr) are extras.
This movie's first half is a laugh-a-second joke fest that works for two reasons: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's brilliant script and Hill and Cera's full commitment to the material. Hill's rapid-fire abrasive and arrogant nature is nothing short of brilliant. It contrasts wonderfully with Cera's shy innocence. These two playing off of each other in this movie is a thing of beauty. The script was largely written by Rogen and Goldberg when they were just 13-years-old, and that shows. This is a very juvenile and sex-obsessed movie, but it's juvenile humor of the highest level delivered with complete sincerity. There's a palpable sense of honest taboo naughtiness that is almost non-existent in today's comedies.
The second half drags a little in the joke department, partially because we are laughed out by then but largely because this is when the heart of the movie comes out. Seth and Evan love each other but their faux-cool guy masculinity denies them from showing it. Throughout the film, people ask if they are going to miss each other when they leave for college, and they awkwardly laugh it off, insisting they could care less. As the night spirals out of control, they continually hold back their feelings until they are forced out in bursts of anger. Their relationship is complex, relatable, and genuinely heartbreaking.
When I watched Superbad for the first time I didn't recognize anybody, but in the years to come the cast have proven themselves to be bellwethers of quality comedy. All of their stars have risen a considerable amount, but I wouldn't say that the film itself has had much impact beyond launching the careers of a few comedy superstars and two Academy Award nominees (including one winner). I haven't seen a movie quite like it, since the 2008 movie Sex Drive. Great films like Easy A show influence but have a more reserved sensibility. The R-rated sex comedy seems to be dead, and that's a shame, but at least they are fun to revisit.