Recently, I reviewed Old School (2003). In discussing it, I talked about how there is a dividing line, especially in cinema, between the things we do when we are in school and as adults. That film attempts to bridge the gap between these two states of cultural existence. Though in the same sort of vein as what I talk about there, Superbad (2007) is more on the side of younger people wondering what life will be like when they are older. That makes the material sound much more serious than it is meant to be. My high school experiences were nowhere near as wild as the ones you see in this film, though I, too, worried about the future to a similar degree as our two main protagonists, Evan (Michael Cera) and Seth (Jonah Hill). Given that they are also social outcasts, there are some parallels in their make-up as well. What separates me from them is that I never attempted to be cool like them, making more of a style out of thumbing my nose at convention. I also do not have a night comparable to the one you see in the film.
In Superbad, Evan and Seth are best friends about to graduate high school. Because they have been inseparable for years, the impending ending to their secondary education has some big changes that they are each hesitant to tell the other. The big one is that they have been accepted into different institutions of higher learning. Still, this issue is a bit more in the future. The more pressing matter is the girls on which they separately have crushes. They believe each are a distraction to their friendship, particularly Evan’s love interest, Becca (Martha MacIsaac), who knows of Seth’s tragic secret (best left unsaid). As for Seth, the object of his affections, Jules (Emma Stone), invites the two friends to her graduation party. Hoping to impress, Evan offers to bring alcohol for said soiree. He is emboldened to do so based on an interaction with an even nerdier acquaintance of theirs named Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). He has revealed to them that he has a fake identification card (ID) that they believe will help them purchase the sought-after liquor, despite later learning that it lists Fogell as a Hawaii resident named just McLovin and being far older than his real age. This is not the last of their problems. Evan’s car has been towed for parking in a faculty spot at school. Seth chickens out from shoplifting beers at the local grocery store, a move he conceives when he finally sees Fogell’s ID. As frustration grows, they decide in desperation to send Fogell into a different convenience store to obtain the alcohol. A shaky Fogell manages to pull it off until Officers Slater (Bill Hader) and Michaels (Seth Rogen) arrive as Fogell is about to leave with his illicit goods. When Evan and Seth finally notice what is happening in the shop, they run, panicked. In the process, Seth is hit by a car, though is unhurt. The driver, eager to avoid any inquiries, decides to offer to buy the kids liquor if they keep the matter quiet. Before this can happen, they are taken to a party. It is at this point that things begin to boil over between the two friends. They are clearly not amongst their peers, and it becomes dangerous when the person who drove them there is beaten up by the owner of the house. Evan accuses Seth of controlling their friendship, while Seth continues to be jealous of Evan’s interest in Becca. Hence, they part ways, though they separately return to the party. For Seth, it is an opportunity to get a hold of the alcohol that he had set out to obtain, and he ends up stealing it from the party by filling a container of laundry detergent with the pilfered liquid. It is now time for all plot points to converge on Jules’ shindig, including Fogell, who had gone on a joy ride with Officers Slater and Michaels. Evan finds Becca extremely drunk. Though he wants to get more intimate with her, her inebriated state causes her to act irrationally and eventually she passes out. Seth comes at his situation from the other side. Though his addition of the liquor filled detergent dispenser proves a moot point, he believes that Jules had agreed to his assistance because she wanted to have drunken intercourse with him. Instead, she does not drink, and gets a black eye for her efforts when she has a heart-to-heart with Seth about his intentions. The injury is the result of him keeling over in his own over-served state. Fogell sees his streak of luck continue, but that is enough said on that point. Seth comes to in time to see Officers Slater and Michaels get to the party looking for Fogell. Suddenly overcome with platonic feelings, Seth finds Evan and carries him away from the party. They then end up back at Evan’s house, sleeping next to each other in matching sleeping bags. All is forgiven as they hash out where they will be going to school next year. The film drives home this point the next day as they are at the mall and find Becca and Jules. With some apologizing to do, Evan goes with Becca, and Seth departs with Becca.
It is this final scene in Superbad that makes the film only marginally tolerable. It indicates a sense of maturity (if only the sense) that had been lacking from everyone in the film, Officers Slater and Michaels included. The rest of the movie is trash. It contains the kind of material that gives parents of teenagers nightmares, and it is only funny in an extremely limited way. In other words, the humor is juvenile, and this is the point that I am trying to make. One of the oft repeated phrases in the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible is that there is a time and place for everything. This is echoed in the New Testament when Paul tells the Corinthians that when he was a child he spoke as a child. When we become men, we put aside childish things, like trying to use a fake ID in order to buy alcohol. Then again, you get to the right age and you do not need spurious identification to purchase such goods. Another thing you do is leave behind scandalous behavior, or at least that is the hope. Children do these things to test their boundaries. Adults doing them, like we see in Old School, is just sad. One of the ways Christianity has always looked at God is as our Father in Heaven. This is how God saw himself when he came down as Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit, we have the spirit of adoption that makes us all children of God, and brothers . . . somewhat like Evan and Seth. Any good father would reprimand their children for behaving as our two main characters. The problem most people seem to erroneously have with Christianity is in believing that God’s love ends when we sin. There is reconciliation for the faithful. Evan and Seth reconcile with each other and move on with their lives. We are invited to do the same with God, but to keep coming to Him.
That is the nicest thing I can say about Superbad, even though, as usual, I used it as a springboard to explain doctrine more clearly. This little nugget about growing up and understanding that one stage of life is ending and another beginning can be found in other films with far less questionable material. Thus, I do not recommend the film. The inappropriateness trumps everything else.