Reviewed By Lybarger
Posted 08/20/07 13:58:25

"It’s as droll as it is dirty."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

On paper, “Superbad” shouldn’t work. Before catching this film, I had concluded that the world had exceeded its quota of films about male teens trying to score booze and babes. Curiously, “Superbad” manages to wallow in filth and still have its heart and its head in the right place. You’ll have to take about 15 showers to get the taint of “Superbad” out of your system, but laughter is almost guaranteed.

Screenwriters Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear because they know how to make their youthful rum runners sympathetic. Their eponymous protagonists Seth (Johan Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) manage to grow as the film progresses, and the film cleverly morphs from a gross-out comedy into a touching story of friendship.

The two lads are about to graduate high school, but their paths are diverging radically. Evan is about to head to Dartmouth with his amiably nerdy pal Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), whereas Seth will be stuck attending a less prestigious college several miles away.

To celebrate their last weekend as high schoolers, the lads are invited to a party hosted by young woman named Jules (Emma Stone) in the hopes that they might be able to bring spirits to the event. Neither looks a day over 18, but Fogell has a bizarre fake ID that might just help them score the loot. Also attending the party, is Becca (Martha MacIsaac), whom the shy Evan has been helplessly admiring from afar.

Of course, things go worse from there. And that’s part of the charm. Officiating all of the madness that follows are two dim cops (Bill Hader and Rogen), who may be the least effective policemen this side of Keystone. The two try in vain to intimidate the partiers and seem to believe that Fogell (wait till you get a load of the name on his ID) is indeed a 25-year-old Hawaiian organ donor.

Rogen, Goldberg and director Greg Mottola pull off a beautiful bait-and-switch operation with “Superbad.” The opening dialogue is fantastically profane, basically letting the easily offended know its time to leave and helping those who crave gross-out humor reach their quota early. Thankfully, Rogen and Goldberg actually come up with amusing filth and are as creative as they are depraved. I’m not sure whether to admire or cringe at the endless ways the duo find to refer to genitalia.

As the evening progresses, it becomes more about Seth and Evan dealing with their eventual adulthood and acknowledging that their lifetime friendship may be coming to an abrupt end. Hill and Cera project an earnestness that belies Seth and Evan’s potty mouths. The two would like to be hedonists but have consciences that might outweigh their urge to deflower themselves.

Mintz-Plasse was born to play the gleefully oblivious Fogell. The lad is having the time of his life palling around with cops who are poor role models. One hopes their city never hits a real crisis.

Another interesting touch is the soundtrack of tunes that would predate the teen characters. Songs like “Man Enough” and “Panama” would seem more appropriate for their parents, but Motolla manages to fit them into the action nicely. Any soundtrack that tried to match the tastes of today’s youth would probably be dated by the time the film was released, so giving the story retro tunes is actually shrewd decision.

Rogen’s mentor Judd Apatow, who helmed “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” has left some obvious fingerprints behind as the film’s producer. He has a rare knack for making potentially sordid material heartwarming. As a result, “Superbad” thankfully becomes the antithesis of its title.

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