The latter half of the 2000’s was quite a bumper time for American movies. From intense, auteur pieces like There Will Be Blood, to big budget spectacles like The Dark Knight, to some of this author’s personal favourites—Inglourious Basterds, Zodiac, No Country For Old Men—the period does, in hindsight, sometimes start to look like a little bit of a mini-renaissance.
The landscape of the American comedy during that time was host to an interesting development too. After the Frat Pack-dominated and then slightly freewheeling first five years of the decade, Judd Apatow made his feature debut, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and with it changed everything. Bringing along with him a cohort of co-conspirators, some from his Freaks And Geeks days, Apatow injected a brand of sweet-but-crude, slightly overlong bromance-y movie magic into the scene that would simultaneously capture and help create the zeitgeist for the remainder of the decade and then some (for better and for worse). Some of those movies would be made directly by Apatow, others by one or few of his acolytes, but the throughline—thematic as well as personnel-wise—from The 40-Year-Old-Virgin to Pineapple Express to even slight outliers like Adventureland was evident. The repercussions of the Apatow wave can be felt even now, as it was something that didn’t actually just wash over things, but more sewed itself into their fabric.
I am personally quite a fan of a fair few of the movies from this bunch. The best of the lot, from my recollection of things, always seemed to be Superbad, the Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg-penned, Greg Mottola-directed 2007 sorta-epic (being as it is almost a filthy, low-stakes suburban version of ‘The Odyssey’). And, holy shit, it’s now been 10 years since Superbad was released (August 17th 2007)! We’re all getting old, you fuckers. So let’s get drunk, re-watch this thing, and see how well it holds up!
This’ll be very much like that time I did Star Trek Into Darkness, except this time I like the movie, and I’m drinking beer instead of whisky. And I’m starting a few beers in because I don’t have to explain why I’m starting a few beers in.
Beer Count: 3
00:08 - Ah yeah, that old-school looking Columbia logo. I forgot how much the guys were sorta-almost leaning into that 70’s vibe for this movie. It’s odd, because they hit those buttons on the logo, a few musical cues, the title, and some of the outfits, and that’s about it. Nothing else is made of it. Like, you would’ve thought maybe there’d be more to it, but nnnope. That’s it. Gotta love the stoner attention span.
00:30 - Speaking of that intro, I’ve forgotten how much of a funky treat the track (‘Too Hot to Stop’ by The Bay-Kays) is. Especially with those lame white boy dance silhouettes of Michael Cera and Jonah Hill overlayed on top of that technicolor background. I’ll never not get joy out of imagining seeing the two actors doing those moves for real.
01:51 - Motherfucking flip phones! This movie is a time capsule.
03:17 - So I mean, the opening bit of of dialogue in this movie is a lengthy debate about the respective merits of different paid porno packages. Which, when you factor in that the movie was written by Rogen and Goldberg when they were teens, makes a lot of sense and really hammers home the point about the kind of movie you’re about to see: Straight Teenage Male, The Slobbering Gaze. I was nearly 20 when this movie came out. My proximity to that demographic meant that I was pretty much its key audience. Now I am almost 30. We’ll see what kinda effect that has.
03:36 - Jonah Hill slapping Cera’s hand while he’s fiddling with his car radio and Cera dejectedly responding with, ‘I’m not…a piece of meat!’ will never not be funny to me.
04:12 - That goes double for his rejoinder to Seth’s lascivious comment about being jealous of Evan sucking on his mother’s breasts when he was a baby. ‘Yeah, well, at least you got to suck on your dad’s dick.’ [Puts on seatbelt]. Cracked me up ten years ago, cracks me up now. I guess I’m still good to enjoy this finely crafted juvenile shit at almost-30. Say what you want about Hill and Cera and what they might’ve become, but they are pitch fucking perfect in this movie.
04:38 - This might just be me, but Jonah Hill has this ridiculous way of walking in this film. His arms flail about like they’re trying to escape from his body or get him to take off like a very round fleshy helicopter and I can’t get enough of it.
05:50 - ‘But the point is to be good at sex by the time you get to college! You don’t want girls thinking that you suck dick at fucking pussy, okay?’ There’s a rat-a-tat rhythm and a momentary purposefully bamboozling effect to that ‘suck dick at fucking pussy’ line that’s quite magical. Exhibit A in Why Superbad Is Modern Day Poetry, Really.
07:10 - I guess Superbad is a high school movie technically. It’s not too interested in trading in a lot of the genre’s tropes, though. It does, however, continue the grand tradition of perfectly casting a bully character. He doesn’t make much of an impact on anything apart from establishing where our heroes lie in the adolescent pecking order (Sober edit: oh and hosting the party that Evan and Seth are explicitly not invited to, thus setting off the chain of events of the entire movie) but man does he have the Doucheus Maximus look down:
Look at that dude. He’s just asking for a Billy Bob Santa Beatdown.
08:17 - There’s an old joke. Getting caught staring at something you shouldn’t have been staring at. It’s been done a billion times. And still one of my favourite versions of it is in Superbad, when Cera’s Evan gets caught creep perving on his crush Becca (Martha MacIsaac):
09:00 - I would love to see the script for Superbad, because I need to know just how much of Michael Cera’s Cera-isms are written in, and how much it just says: ‘Michael Cera Ceras for a minute.’ When it comes to being a George Michael, the kid’s a virtuoso.
Bekka: Evan! Evan, hey!
Evan: Hey, Bekka!
Bekka: Hey!, uh…
Bekka: Thank you for your pen.
Evan: Oh, no, no, no worries, no worries, you just keep it. It’ll be yours. You won’t have to borrow one again. Because you’ll have… That one.
Bekka: Thank you, so much.
Evan: You’re welcome. Don’t worry about it.
Every pause and every strange rhythm or needless repetition adds up to just the most awkward, jarring jazz solo of a monologue. It’d be unbearable to deal with in real life but damn if it isn’t funny onscreen. It’s like Shakespeare: reading isn’t enough, you need to hear it.
10:03 - Having said that, the idea that this seemingly lovely girl would not just put up with this dude’s charisma black hole, but also actively say she’d love to hang out sometimes, well it stretches believability. Just a tad. Like I said: Straight Teenage Male, The Slobbering Gaze. But here were are. That’s where we’re at so let’s just roll with it.
12:24 - Emma fuckin’ Stone. Emma Stone, now one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, and here she is, making her feature debut opposite Michael Cera and Jonah Hill and a thousand biro penises. She doesn’t get all that much to work with; mostly just asking to exist in the Venn diagram area between ‘hot’ and ‘approachable’, the women in this movie don’t get all that much material, but damn if she doesn’t make it fucking work. (Although to Superbad’s credit, Stone’s character Jules does actually feel a bit more developed than the average teen movie. She’s written to have at least some heart and character. No one’s winning any awards for female representation, but it’s something.) There’s something here, too, about how Superbad, lewd as fuck and obsessed with screwing as it is, doesn’t treat the objects of its gaze with too much disrespect. Yeah it make some vile jokes at the expense of women, but it does feel like those jokes are coming from a place of insecurity and vulnerability, rather than power and nastiness. This is something that movie not only continually admits, but actually makes a central theme. The joke is always on the boys. But I’m several beers in and talking from a position of privilege, so maybe I’m just chatting out of my arse.
14:44 - Ten years ago I wanted to know more about Miroki, Evan’s cooking partner in one scene who makes Seth really jealous. I still wanna know more about Miroki.
Where the hell did you go, Miroki?!
Beer Count: 4
16:18 - Fuckin’ Fogell. What an introduction. In just two minutes Christopher Mintz-Plasse creates one of the all-time great movie nerds. His slight frame and un-earned swagger alternating with neurosis, it’s all perfect. But gets me here more than anything else is the teacher in the classroom that Fogell invades to chat to Evan and Seth. I can’t actually tell whether it’s intentional or not, but the way she tells him to leave after noticing him is hilarious. First you hear her voice in the background saying, relatively patiently, ‘If you’re not in this class, leave this class.’
To which Fogell:
Then, with barely a second’s pause, she returns with: ‘Fogell! HI!’
And Fogell fucks off. But that minimal, almost non-existent pause, and that jarring shift in tone? I don’t know why it’s there but I’m glad it is.
16:50 - In what would become a very Apatow Troupe trait, this movie is totally underscored by Seth and Evan’s bromance, and it’s alluded to or addressed, like, all the time. They’re co-dependent, and they didn’t get into the same college, so will soon have to spend a lot of time apart. It’s funny pretty much every time though. Case in point, Seth to Evan after telling Jules they don’t do everything together: ‘Alright, I gotta take a piss, my dick’s not gonna shake itself, come on babe.’
18:00 - Alright here we go, the centrepiece of the whole movie. The biro dick montage. In modern movies, there’s iconic, and then there’s Superbad’s biro dick montage. I’m not gonna lie: I think this is still funny as hell.
And look who the dick therapist is!
He demands to be taken seriously.
23:46 - I always forget how compressed of a timeline Superbad is on. Like it’s all just one day and night basically. This gives it an urgency that a lot of comedies lack. There are some stakes here, low-key as they may be in the grand scheme of things, but they nevertheless imbue the story with some weight.
24:10 - Seth: ‘Greg why don’t you go piss your pants again?’
Greg: ‘That was like eight years ago, asshole!’
Seth: ‘People don’t forget.’
24:58 - And now, two of my favourite visual gags in quick succession. It’s been years since I’ve seen this movie but I know they’re fucking here.
First, quite simple, Jonah Hill punting a
soccer foot ball out of the field:
Tbh I don’t even know if it’s an actual joke joke. I just find it fucking funny.
And then—and this might say a whole bunch of shit about me—the gag that I remember making me laugh the most out of the whole movie, and which, quite frankly, still has the same effect.
Yep, it’s the boob punch.
I’m not sure I even want to unpack why I find this so funny. A part of me hates myself for finding it so funny. Like if this costs me points on my feminist card then I’ll gladly take that punishment. It’s just the image of this simpering nerd, sorta getting somewhere with the girl he likes, and she’s being so needlessly accommodating, and then, just when it looks like he’s scored major points for offering to buy her booze, bam, someone bumps into his arm from behind and:
Both actors play this so well. Becca’s face immediately after is one of utter embarrassment, and Evan is the picture of abject horror. There’s no meanness to any of it. Just slapstick and social terror.
27:29 - And, uh, all of this:
Seth: ‘It doesn’t even have a first name, it just SAYS ‘MCLOVIN’!’
Evan: ‘One name? One name?! Who are you, Seal, Fogell?’
32: 53 - Old Lady saying, ‘Enjoy fucking Jules!’ will never not be funny. Seth getting his throat slit in his fantasy. Also never not funny.
Beer Count: 5
37:47 - ‘Yeah, and one little bottle of spermicidal lube!’
40:19 - Fogell goes in to buy booze. Seth and Evan get distracted momentarily. Fogell gets punched out by a thief in the process of thieving. Seth and Evan come back to see a police car parked outside. Naturally they assume Fogell’s been busted and thus they strike out on their own. Lovely little plot contrivance, and the split story strands work great later if I remember correctly.
Bonus! Cops are played by two guys I’d gladly watch in anything, even all these years later.
I live for Seth Rogen’s delivery.
‘Okay, so we have an African Jew wearing a hoodie…’
The cashier: ‘No! You don’t! No! That’s not what I said!’
44:15 - Joe Lo Truglio continues the trend of Everyone Is In This Movie. And he’s a fucking creep.
48:00 - Wee bit of a time skip there. We go from like early afternoon to full-on night in the space of a minute or two but fuck it, this movie’s in a rush to get to its night time sections so who cares.
49:08 - Seriously, Joe Lo Truglio can creep like no-one else.
50:50 - After doing an impression of Yoda, Bill Hader’s cop: ‘That’s Yoda.’ Seth Rogen: ‘You familiar with Yoda?’ Hader: ‘Yeah, from Attack of the Clones?’
51:50 - So Evan and Seth arrive with Lo Truglio’s uber creep at a house party where he promises to source them some booze as the price for not reporting him for hitting Seth with his car. This party looked pretty happening to me ten years ago and I’ll be honest—I still dig it even now.
52:44 - Oh yeah, shit, it’s Kevin Corrigan’s party. Angry Kevin Corrigan’s party. Corrigan does good angry. Seth and Evan are totally out of their element, even before the guy who brought them there is personally challenged and threatened by the host. Now they’re totally stranded.
53:36 - The fight gets taken outside. Lo Truglio lands a punch. Hilariously, one extra in the background all the way on the right moves his mouth as if being given the direction to shout, but no sound whatsoever comes out. This is funnier to me than it probably should be.
56:26 - Evan and Seth have argued and split up at the party. We follow Seth, so out of his depth, as he searches for some booze to steal. Everyone has some. He can’t get to any. Then a woman dances up on him. Starts grinding on his leg. He leans into it, hilariously, doing some sort of ridiculous dance and looking like he feels pretty good about himself. Seth ends up grabbing some booze while Evan has an awkward, signal-troubled phone call with Becca. Fine, fine, stuff going on. Then a stranger at the party tells Seth that he has blood on his leg. The penny drops for us sooner than either of them. Boy, you got period blood on your trousers. And then everyone starts joking about while he hops around, wild eyed, panicking. Still funny? Still funny.
Beer Count: 6
01:01:24 - MvLovin’s adventures with the cops continue, and while it’s good for a few good gags and throwaway lines, it’s not nearly as substantial as Seth and Evan’s plot strand. It pays off later when they all end up converging at the same party, but the cops’ segment doesn’t tickle me nearly as much as it once did.
01:05:11 - And right now we have a lead up to the perfect example of why the duo crashing the house party works so well. Evan, on the phone in an empty room, is suddenly swamped by a bunch of dudes coming into the room, closing the door, whipping out some naughty powders, and then realising he’s in there with them. He tries to remain circumspect, but the dudes (Martin Starr, David Krumholtz, and Kevin Breznahan among them—again, Everyone Is In This Movie—and also Martin Starr looks like this:
01:08:09 - Angry Kevin Corrigan has issues with noticing the same blood stain on Seth’s leg that he has on his leg. Seth, yammering, trying to deflect: ‘Maybe you and I rubbed up against each other at some point or maybe it was some sort of ricochet scenario!’
01:08:44 - Here we go. Finally the singing.
01:10:07 - The glorious singing, of course, gets interrupted by Angry Kevin Corrigan outside, starting a territorial period blood pissing match with Seth. The group of dudes burst out the room, bottles are thrown, and a fight breaks out. Pandemonium. During which Evan is temporarily crushed beneath a huge man taking a beating and makes this amazing face:
In the fray, Seth and Evan beat a hasty retreat out into the night. While on the other side of the plot divide:
Alright this time it’s pretty funny. The two dickhead cops and McLovin shooting at street signs, before taking off to respond to a call, speeding off and dropping beer bottles off their car in the process.
01:13:50 - Bit of an emotional climax here, as Seth and Evan make it far enough from the party, stolen booze in tow, to confront some of the issues that the night’s events have brought bubbling up. Angry and explosive, Seth reveals his feelings, and Evan responds in a very Cera way.
01:14:40 - Before much can come of it though, here comes McLovins dickhead cop car, plowing straight into Seth and treating us to the second Jonah Hill/car collision of the movie. This one’s even better than the first.
01:16:59 - Now that the two threads—and Seth and a second car—have collided, shit starts to move quite fast. Bill Hader gets all cop aggro and forces the bickering bromance couple down onto the ground at gunpoint. Seth Rogen convinces McLovin to testify that the two jumped out in front of the cop car, leading to an inevitable hit that the cops were entirely not to blame for. They step out. The two guys notice McLovin. McLovin notices the two. The moment hangs in the air, heavy with suspense. The two cops are momentarily turned, consulting with each other.
And here, one of my new favourite moments. I don’t know why but I never remembered it being this funny, but in this moment when the cops have their heads turned, Evan, lying belly down on the ground, terrified, sizes up the situation, and just stands up and fucking legs it, feet powering along in a fantastically cartoonish nerd run. Maybe it’s the beers helping things along, but dammit if that didn’t get me this time.
01:19:05 - Michael Cera’s nerd-run disappearing him into the inky blackness is one of my favourite shots in the movie.
01:19:53 - A night time chase scene in a labyrinthine suburb, handled perfectly. Cars racing down roads, flash lights being blasted into dark corners, nerdy teenagers running with gas containers full of booze. And, gloriously, Seth being hit again. This time not by a car, but by a baseball bat flung by an irate, bathrobe-wearing resident. I’m laughing even more than I did ten years ago.
Beer Count: 7
01:24:42 - All three boys, having made it away from the pursuing cops, end up on a bus, heading to Jules’ party on a bus. Because this is the kind of movie that makes much good use of coincidences, Evan’s prize possession—the bottle of gold-infused vodka that he is bringing for Becca—gets smashed on the bus thanks to a crazed homeless man who was a part of Fogell’s misadventures earlier on in the night.
01:25:24 - The boys, having arrived to the party with booze, are hailed as heroes. Seth enjoys the attention. Evan decides to get drunk to make it more ethical to fool around with a drunk Becca, who has apparently expressed interest in fooling around with him. McLovin goes and gets funky on the dancefloor.
Eventually, all three, in their own way, get busy. Evan goes upstairs with Becca and they proceed to have the most drunken, nerdy, almost-sex.
Seth tries to drunkenly make out with Jules, using the excuse that they are both drunk, who rebuffs him pretty gently saying that she doesn’t actually drink. This upsets Seth very much and he goes into a bit of a self-pity spiral. Jules, in her infinite patience, tries to comfort the somewhat sleazy wreck. Eventually he collapses and headbutts Jules in the face on his way to the floor. Emma Stone’s ‘What the FUCK?!’ is a thing of beauty.
01:36:09 - Holy shit, cops arrive. Those cops. Panic mode ensues. As they clear the party out, Seth carries an unconscious Evan out, snaking through the rooms, always just one step ahead of the fuzz. Aww. Cops interrupt McLovin lovin upstairs. They admit they know how old he’s actually been the whole time.
01:39:29 - Holy shit this movie feels long. Like, it’s still a lot of fun. But fuck it feels long. First time round it just flew by.
01:44:01 - Evan and Seth walk down a dark street away from danger, having an honest and open dialogue. McLovin and the cops drive off to do donuts to ‘Panama’ before torching the car. Seth and Evan continue their dialogue in adjacent sleeping bags on one of their bedroom floors. They bear their souls, express their fears and their emotions, and hug. Aww.
Beer Count: 8
01:50:20 - Something something coda. Seth and Evan try jeans on together at the mall. It’s funny. They bump into Becca and Jules and eventually pair off with them, heading their separate ways, casting one last longing look back at each other. Emma Stone still has a black eye from being hit in the face by Jonah Hill’s head. But okay, whatever, I buy it. That makes sense for where the story was going emotionally.
Roll credits. Verdict: Superbad is still fucking funny. Maybe a bit too long though. Never trying to be a bastion of progressiveness either it actually kinda holds up okay a decade later.