Posted on December 4, 2007 at 8:00 am

Cheerfully outrageous and unabashedly offensive, this saga of three high school seniors in search of sex and liquor works because the vulgarity is in the context of a very sweet story about growing up and leaving home. It centers on the themes and people from the previous work by Judd Apatow (who produced) and Seth Rogan (co-screenwriter).

Once again we have immature boy-men who are hungry for sex but afraid of women. This time, at least, the immature boy-men have an excuse — they are still in high school. It’s not arrested development. It’s just development. But just as the sweetest relationship in Apatow’s last film, “Knocked Up,” was between two men, the tender love story at the heart of this saga is between two friends, Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera). They discover, like Dorothy, that what they have been looking for was at home all along.
Some of what they were looking for, anyway. This being high school, they are also looking to have as much sex as possible as soon as possible, and if they cannot actually have it, they are interested in talking about it as much as possible. And most of the movie’s heart and humor comes from the combination of their obsessive fixation, explicit descriptions, and — this is a key point — endearing cluelessness. It is clear that their almost Tourette-ish stream of endless obscenities, vivid and imaginative as they are, are really less an expression of their actual interests and intentions than they are a sort of terrified incantation to ward off their greatest fears: humiliation, incompetence, powerlessness, being laughed at.
And of course on this fateful evening, they will find all of that and more. And they will also learn the crucial life lesson that it is actually not nearly as scary as they thought it was. And that they can survive some very humiliating moments.
It begins when Seth and Evan manage to get invited to a party. The hostess is Jules (Emma Stone), and Seth hopes he can get her drunk enough to be willing to have sex with him. Also at the party Becca (Martha MacIsaac). Evan is hoping he can get up the nerve to tell her he likes her. Both girls are thrilled that the boys are going to bring liquor and the boys are convinced that it is completing this task that will demonstrate their worth and their fitness or love or at least for sex. For this, they need the help of a friend named Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who has a new fake ID in the name of McLovin. Yes, just McLovin.
And so begins an odyssey of a kind, as the boys try to buy the booze, get to the party, and make some progress with the girls. Like any epic journey, there are detours, in this case involving some peeks into what in this movie’s concept qualify as the adult world. “McLovin’s” liquor purchase is interrupted by a robbery that leads to the appearance of a couple of cops (co-screenwriter Seth Rogan and “Saturday Night Live’s” Bill Hader), who are every bit as immature and even more irresponsible than the boys are. They take Fogell on a ride with side-trips to a bar and an adult party. Seth and Evan have also ended up at that party, still on their quest to get liquor for Jules and Becca. At first, they are excited to get a chance to see how grown-ups behave and it seems to them that it is everything they had hoped. But then various disgusting and scary things happen and, as in most of the Judd Apatow oeuvre, they respond to the adult world like ground-hogs on a sunny day and burrow back into their cozy underground sanctuaries. After all their adventures, Seth and Evan end up, as they have on weekend nights since grade school, sharing a couple of sleeping bags and talking to each other.
Parents should know that this is a very raunchy movie with constant and extremely explicit and crude sexual references and material that would probably get an NC-17 rating if not in a comedy. Teen-aged characters use extremely vulgar language, lie, get a fake ID to buy liquor, drink, smoke, get into fights, and shoot a gun. Characters get high on drugs and alcohol. There are non-explicit sexual situations. Parents should understand that while the movie is exceptionally vulgar and intended to be outrageous and provocative, its ultimate message about sexual behavior is one they can support. SPOILER ALERT: both of the lead characters end up not having sex. While Becca is more than willing, Evan recognizes that it would be wrong to take advantage of her when she is drunk and that it would be unlikely to be satisfying for him as well. And Seth learns that while Jules wanted to serve her guests liquor, she does not drink, and does not need to be drunk to be interested in him.
Families who see this movie should talk about what Seth and Evan are right and wrong about when they talk about girls and why it was hard for them to admit how they felt about each other. They may also want to have a talk about the issues of fake IDs, underage drinking, and some of the other high-risk and foolish behavior in the film.
Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy American Graffiti, Dazed & Confused, Can’t Hardly Wait, and the very raunchy American Pie series.

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6 Replies to “Superbad”

  1. Hi, I was just wondering, were you offended by this movie in any way, because my parents recently watched it one day and told me that my mom was so disguisted, they turned it off after just 20 minutes. My dad finished it the next day and didn’t like saying there was basically no plot and that ‘the curly haired kid’ was constantly using using foul language which kind of ruined the movie for him because- as you know from my recent post from your favourite family films of the year- he does not like that kind of stuff, especially when it involves teenagers. So as I’ve already asked were you offended in any way after watching this.

  2. I was not offended by the movie. It was outrageous and sometimes disgusting but the overall themes and conclusion of the film were meaningful, even sweet. Yes, kids used awful language. And they did many other things I did not approve of — drinking, shooting a gun, etc. But as I said in my review, “It is clear that their almost Tourette-ish stream of endless obscenities, vivid and imaginative as they are, are really less an expression of their actual interests and intentions than they are a sort of terrified incantation to ward off their greatest fears: humiliation, incompetence, powerlessness, being laughed at.” There is a way that bad language can almost be poetic — for example in a Richard Pryor monologue or in some of last year’s film “Gone Baby Gone.” So that did not offend me. But I made it clear in my review what was in the movie so that audience members who are offended by bad language and the other material in the film could avoid it. You might like to read this piece by Washington Post critic Desson Thomson on how taking his 15-year-old son to the movie made him see it differently:

  3. You are a mental case if you think this movie is a B+ for anyone especially teenagers. It was movie about 3 pathetic teens that only wanted sex and booze. There are plenty of teenagers and kids on their way to college that do good in the world and think beyond their hormones. Shame on you for encouraging people to see this movie; especially for parents that are looking to you for guidance.

  4. I appreciate your comments, Steve. This kind of feedback is very helpful to parents and other visitors. As you can see in the review, I made it very clear that the movie is extremely raunchy and explicit so that families can have the information they need to make the decisions that are right for their families.
    Also as you can see in the review, I had a very different take on the film. I have seen many teen and young adult-centered movies that were all about sex and alcohol, but this one was different. It was about friendship and leaving home. And I was very impressed that while the film was very crude and vulgar, the values of the main characters when it came down to the opportunities presented to them were well worth discussing with teens. I know plenty of young people who care about doing good in the world; I raised a few. But they still have to grow up and leave home and for some families a movie like this one can help open up discussion on sensitive topics. Washington Post movie critic Desson Thomson wrote a wonderful column about how he didn’t care for the movie much until he took his then-15-year-old and found out how much it meant to his son to have a context to talk about some of the things on his mind. I am not in any way suggesting that is right for every family. But I do not agree with you that this movie is without value.
    I very much appreciate your taking the time to share your views, but I must remind you that we have a strict no-insult policy on this site. I am sure that someone who is so concerned with teaching good values to young people did not mean to be offensive and I hope you will post again.

  5. Movie mom, I watched this movie earlier this summer on the Netflix watch instantly list and just loved it. Normally I would not spend 2 hours sitting at my computer to watch a movie, but I just had to stick around for this one. Besides being consistently funny, there was actually a sweet storyline about best friends. I ecspecially enjoyed Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen, who are both hilarious and two of my favorite actors (the only one missing being Elizabeth Banks). Not to leave out Michael Cera, but I do think he did a better job in Juno. I wanted to tear up when Seth and Evan were telling each other ‘I love you’, but I was laughing too hard. Ok, so it didn’t avoid some of the teenager movie cliches that I hate, but it did something that I thought would never be done in any teenager movie: THE TEENAGE CHARACTERS ACTUALLY LOOK AND ACT LIKE TEENAGERS. I was overjoyed! Sorry about rambling, I am just glad that you looked past it’s vulgarity like I did and actually enjoyed it. Fun Fact for you, my dad watched this on his own time and was the one to reccomend it to me!

  6. A wonderful comment, Allyson! Thanks so much! And very timely in light of the release of “I Love You, Beth Cooper,” which got wrong everything this one got right.

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