If the publicity materials are to be believed, Seth Rogen and his pal Evan Goldberg wrote the first draft of 'Superbad' when they were 13 years old. Yeah, that sounds about right. Written about the pair's high school experiences, the project percolated for another decade as Rogen's acting profile rose in various Judd Apatow productions such as 'Freaks and Geeks', 'Undeclared', 'The 40 Year-Old Virgin', and recently his breakout starring role in 'Knocked Up'. Backed by Apatow as producer, the script was revived, polished off, and handed to Greg Mottola ('The Daytrippers') to direct, but the resulting film still feels very much like it spawned directly out of the minds of a couple of horny teenagers.
Michael Cera ('Arrested Development') and Jonah Hill ('Accepted') star as Evan and Seth, a pair of graduating seniors desperate to lose their virginity before going off to college. As Seth explains it, they need to build up at least a few months of experience in the practice so that they can walk into college knowing what they're doing. The problem is that Evan is kind of geeky and Seth is a crass jackass who can't speak a sentence without swearing profusely and turning the conversation into a lewd sexual innuendo. Perhaps their best shot at meeting this goal is to attend a party at which there will be many drunken girls, but only if Seth lives up to his promise of supplying the alcohol. To do that, the boys need the help of dorky Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who has proudly obtained a fake ID baring the improbable pseudonym "McLovin." No first name, mind you, just McLovin.
Naturally, their plans go disastrously wrong in all sorts of ways. After a series of absurd events, a pair of bumbling cops played by Rogen and Bill Hader pick up McLovin at the liquor store. But they don't want to arrest him; they just want to hang out with this allegedly 25 year-old Hawaiian dude and take him on a very crazy ride-along. That leaves Evan and Seth to their own devices to procure the booze, a mission that leads them on a wild trip though the seedier parts of town and in the company of people they'd rather not keep.
Long story short, the movie is damn funny. Cera and Hill have great comedic chemistry. Even though the Seth character is a self-centered jerk who says and does a lot of just plain hateful things, Hill manages to make him charming and even likeable in his own crude way. In the vein of R-rated teen comedies of the '80s ('Meatballs' and 'Porky's' are obvious influences), as well more recent revivals like the 'American Pie' franchise, the picture is overloaded with exceedingly lowbrow humor, mostly focused on drinking and sex. In structure, it's a pretty basic coming-of-age story and nothing that really reinvents the genre, but the movie has appealing characters, a fun '70s vibe in the music and fashions ('Dazed and Confused' seems to be another touchstone), and some hilarious, batshit crazy escapades involving angry coke fiends, drunken winos, graphic penis artwork, and icky bodily fluids (and not just the obvious ones).
Writing as an adult, I personally prefer the Apatow-directed '40 Year-Old Virgin' and 'Knocked Up', which mix their tales of delayed adolescence and raunchy sex humor with greater emotional resonance. That isn't really the goal here. 'Superbad' is just about a trio of high school losers trying to get laid and failing miserably at the attempt. There's no particular message or meaning behind that. Don't get me wrong, the movie is funny as hell, even if it wasn't my favorite entry from the talented troupe Apatow has assembled.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Superbad' comes to Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in a 2-Disc Unrated Extended Edition that adds a few minutes of extra foul language to the already bawdy theatrical release. The disc contents are nearly identical to the comparable 2-disc DVD set. The first disc starts with a forced trailer before the menu that's extremely annoying but fortunately can be skipped. When you get to it, the main menu is loaded with content inappropriate for children.
Shot on digital video at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 'Superbad' has very bright, sharp, and vividly colorful photography that translates extremely well to High Definition in this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer. The '70s-style opening credits have some artificial scratches and dirt added for effect, but after the movie proper starts, the image is essentially flawless and almost totally grain-free. Colors and contrast range both look great, and the picture has a nice sense of depth. If I have any complaint, it's that although the video seems to have satisfying sharpness with no visible edge enhancement or other artifacts, it also has something of a plastic appearance, without much fine object detail. That's probably a consequence of the digital video photography rather than the disc transfer, however. In any case, the movie delivers some impressive High Definition imagery.
The disc sounds pretty good, too. The movie's soundtrack is offered in either lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 or uncompressed PCM 5.1 formats. The player used for this review can't decode the TrueHD, so I went with the PCM track (there shouldn't be any quality difference between the two formats, regardless). Despite the funky '70s flavor in the musical score, everything about the sound mix meets modern standards for excellent fidelity. Dialogue is always crisp and clear, and the score has terrific breadth and range in the front soundstage.
As is typical for comedies, there isn't very much surround usage in the mix, nor is there any particularly deep, room-shaking bass, though the music has a nice thumping beat at times. The few gunshots fired come through with a satisfying crack. 'Superbad' may not be flashy enough to use as a show-off demo piece, but it sounds pretty darn good.
All of the bonus features from the comparable 2-Disc Unrated Extended Edition DVD made the transition to Blu-ray, most of which are presented in High Definition here. The content is almost entirely focused on the cast and crew goofing around, with little mention of anything to do with how the movie was actually made. Much of it is pretty entertaining, if not very informative or insightful.
'Superbad' is a very funny movie with plenty of repeat viewing potential. The Blu-ray looks and sounds great, and has a lot of bonus features, many of which are entertaining even if they don't offer too much substance. This is an easy recommendation.