The winning new teen romp Superbad was written by Evan Goldberg and Judd Apatow's protégé Seth Rogen, and directed by The Daytrippers' Greg Mottola, but it still feels like the concluding film in Apatow's trilogy of raunchy, big-hearted, improvisation-heavy comedies about man-children torn between the pleasures of eternal adolescence and the relentless pull of adult responsibility. The stars and sensibility get younger with each successive film: The 40-Year-Old Virgin's middle-aged Steve Carell gave way to twentysomething Knocked Up star Rogen, and now teenagers Jonah Hill and Michael Cera step in as co-dependent buddies facing the end of high school and scary/exciting college careers pulling them in separate directions.
Like American Graffiti and Dazed And Confused, Superbad condenses all the cruelty, mixed emotions, angst, fun, and insanity of high-school life into a single night of kinetic mayhem. In the tradition of such end-of-class movies, Superbad chronicles Hill and Cera's epic misadventures in securing alcohol for a raucous party where they hope to finally score with their respective crushes. In a hilarious subplot, über-Poindexter/unwieldy third wheel Christopher Mintz-Plasse gets separated from Hill and Cera and spends the night tagging along with a pair of goofy, underachieving Super Troopers (Seth Rogen and Bill Hader) who immediately take to Mintz-Plasse because they never really stopped being goofy teenaged dorks themselves. The looming specter of college and its friendship-testing separation gives the film a bittersweet undertone that seldom gets in the way of big-ass laughs and infectious high spirits.
With Superbad, producer Apatow solidifies his position as the undisputed king of dick-joke movies with surprising emotional relevance. But the element of surprise is largely gone: After Virgin and Knocked Up, people have come to expect Apatow's productions to include a little pathos with the scatological tomfoolery. Superbad consequently sets itself apart through the quality and quantity of its manhood-themed humor. From a riotous flashback to Hill's monomaniacal early obsession with drawing male genitalia onward, this is the Citizen Kane of dick-joke movies. Superbad is a funny, boozy, ramshackle party, but it's more likely to leave audiences with a tingly afterglow than a pounding hangover.