In every person’s life, there are more than a few occasions where you know you’re on the cusp of something that’s going to completely change everything in your life. There’s the knowledge of some precipice off in the distance, just waiting for you to drive your speeding car off of it. The average teen sex comedy (like American Pie) takes this universal feeling, combines it with the natural human desire to have engaged in the act of procreation before moving on to the next phase of life, tosses in some bodily function jokes, and makes a few hundred million at the box office.
While Superbad is a teen sex comedy, it is far from the brainless depths of other films of that overly-crowded genre. For starters, there’s more than a tertiary relationship between the two main characters, Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera). These two hopeless losers are actually friends, rather than acquaintances. Unlike the foursome of American Pie, who’d never be friends in real life, these two and Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who may as well be in jail right now, because he steals every scene he’s in), AKA “McLovin,” are friends because, well, they’re all dorks. There’s no mixed bag of wacky companions designed to cross all race and class guidelines and draw in everyone, just a bunch of awkward-looking white kids.
While the movie is, on its surface, about getting laid at the last big high school graduation party, it’s so much more than that. It’s about friendship; specifically, it’s about the inevitable moment where you have to figure out what you’re going to do when you have to adapt that one truly strong friendship that’s always been there into something different. We’ve all been there, either when we graduated high school or when we graduated college. There’s a seismic shift in the things we knew and held to be true for years called growing up. Nobody wants to do it, but everyone does.
I don’t know if Superbad has the ability to appeal to everyone, but I know as a geeky, awkward guy who is still struggling through the transition between college life and the real world, I could empathize with those kids because in high school, I was one of those geeky awkward kids with no girlfriend who didn’t go to parties. But I had my small group of friends who I’d bonded with since middle school, and like the characters in Superbad I knew that once we’d graduated high school and went our separate ways, everything from then on out would be totally different.
No matter how much you might want things to stay the same, they never do. You change, your friends change, the world changes, and the hard part is retaining and strengthening those bonds you’ve nurtured for years with your friends despite the world moving on around you.
That’s what elevates Superbad into something than just a funny movie; it’s funny and realistic. We’ve all been there (some of us are still there), and while it’s been a few years since I was in high school, the dialogue sounds awfully familiar and awfully realistic. Granted, I never went on a joyriding adventure with two crazy cops (Bill Hader and Seth Rogen, who sports a cool Fu Manchu) and I didn’t spend much time scamming for alcohol, but I remember when and where my entire life changed.
It’s funny. Since he first landed on big screens in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, more and more people have told me that I remind them, either physically or mentally, of Seth Rogen. Having seen the basically biographical film of his high school years (penned with childhood friend Evan Goldberg), maybe those comparisons aren’t so far off.