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MOVIE REVIEW

A sweet surprise

'Superbad's' teen raunch isn't what's shocking; it's the love story.

August 17, 2007|Carina Chocano | Times Staff Writer

Since the dawn of youth culture, when it was first determined that adolescents were not to be trusted to play themselves, teens on screens have been glamorized or caricaturized, stripped of complexity and much of their clothes and prevailed upon to do things like violate baked goods in order to best advertise their sex-crazed adolescent bona fides to the world.

As amusing as this kind of thing can be, it can also be alienating to the currently and formerly young. It was, in fact, the overwhelming bogusness that inspired Seth Rogen to write a comedy with his childhood friend Evan Goldberg, something that would reflect the experiences of real kids like them. By the time "Superbad" went into production about a decade later, Rogen was past the age at which he could credibly play the character of Seth, a high school senior on the eve of graduation, and the role went to his buddy and "Knocked-Up" cohort, Jonah Hill. Not that the passage of time made a difference -- the movie's appeal leaps across generations in a single bound. As Hill recently said in an interview, "Superbad" is not a teen movie, it's a movie about young people. Wide-eyed and sincere as it is hilariously, unrepentently profane, the movie aims to express what it's like to stare down the barrel of your first foray into adulthood, and it's not afraid to be honest about it. It's the opposite of teensploitation. Were it to appear as an SAT question, it would be to "American Pie" what the collected works of John Hughes are to the "Porky's" trilogy.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, August 18, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part Page News Desk 1 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction
'Superbad': In some copies of Friday's Calendar section, the review of the movie "Superbad" listed the name of the co-writer as Evan Goldman. It is Evan Goldberg. Also, in some copies of the review the film "Blades of Glory" was misspelled as "Blades of Gory."

What with everyone so focused on the raunchiness, though, it comes as a complete surprise to find that "Superbad" is in fact a love story. High-strung, impulsive Seth (Hill) and shy, gentle Evan (the gifted Michael Cera) are days away from graduating from high school. It will be their last summer before Evan goes off to college on the opposite coast. Evan has been accepted at Dartmouth, while Seth will be staying behind at a nearby state school. Their impending separation combined with their sudden rift in status is taking a toll on the relationship, though neither friend is capable of articulating the problem or admitting to the separation anxiety. The mounting tension between them is exacerbated by the fact that Evan may be sharing a room at college with their mutual friend, the ├╝ber-nerd Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), whom Seth fears will somehow supplant him in Evan's life.

When Seth unexpectedly lands an invitation to a graduation party hosted by the beautiful Jules (Emma Stone), he tries to impress her by volunteering to pick up all the alcohol. He plans to pull off this feat with the help of Fogell's brand-new fake I.D. For Seth, the chance to be Jules' hero represents his only chance (he thinks) to make her his girlfriend. For Evan, making good on his promise to bring Becca (Martha MacIsaac) the bottle of gold-flake vodka she requested is the only way he can think of to let her know how much he likes her.

Things start going wrong from the moment Fogell returns from the local counterfeiter with a Hawaiian driver's license featuring a ridiculous uni-name ("McLovin") and ludicrous date of birth, however, and the night gives itself over to a series of escalating disasters. Embarking on a late-night odyssey, an epic journey that takes them from the liquor store to Jules' house, through all manner of perilous encounters with thugs and weirdos, drunks and coke heads, and women who are way more uninhibited than they can handle, the lifelong best friends begin confronting their fears, confessing their feelings, experiencing catharsis and growing up. (Almost.) Meanwhile, Fogell has the night of his life in the company of two wildly reckless cops played by Rogen and Bill Hader.

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