Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

‘Superbad’: The desperate hours

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Melissa Moseley
From left, Evan (Michael Cera), Seth (Jonah Hill), and Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) hope to have the night they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.

Rated R. 104 minutes.

Teen comedy.

Cast: Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Seth Rogen, Bill Hader, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Emma Stone, Martha MacIsaac

Director: Greg Motolla

‘‘Superbad” follows a trio of high school pals in the last days of senior year. These are geeky guys on gonadal overdrive in the worst⁄best 24 hours of their lives. They’re desperate to perfect (or begin) their sexual skills. No luck? There’s always college.

‘‘The point,” one of them admits sadly, ‘‘is to be good at sex before you get to college.”

The chatty, vulgar coming-of-age comedy by director Greg Mottola (‘‘The Daytrippers”) and co-writer Seth Rogen (‘‘Knocked Up”) is a geek show with nuance. They ask us to find the love in losers, for example, in the chunky Seth (Jonah Hill), an excitable, exasperating motor-mouth who fizzes and sparks with challenges, bombast and big plans, none of which is backed up by actual achievement. A runner with one leg easily overtakes him at track.

The steadier of the two, Evan (Michael Cera), is a plodder, the one who knows better, yet strikes himself incomprehensibly dumb in the presence of girls.

Even goofier is Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a goggling guppy from the planet McFly, who nevertheless masters the occasion in ways that are pretty funny. It’s hard to see how these three will ever clean up. There is mention of a sadder form of life, some guy named Glansberg, but thankfully the movie does not go there.

In a moment of bravado, hoping to net the popular Jules (Emma Stone) and Becca (Martha MacIsaac) for possible sex, the fast-talking Seth volunteers to supply a party with alcohol.

‘‘This is something a smart person wouldn’t do,” Evan frets.

Nevertheless, they enlist the hopeless Fogell, whose possession of a fake I.D. begins to take the night into alarming directions, which includes a stint in the custody of a pair of remarkably jovial cops (Bill Hader, Rogen).

But enough of the plot. At one point Evan finds himself alone, at the wrong party and mistaken for a really good singer. Some of the lines and exchanges are hilarious — ‘‘Now that she can jog comfortably.” The characters show a glimmer of an awakening as to why their booze-fueled behavior might be inappropriate for a smart person.

It’s a creep show, but one with subtle connections. However, the movie’s extreme vulgarity — the body-fluid, wit-obliterating kind — will draw a line right across the demographic.

Too bad. ‘‘Superbad” ought to set up some lively discussions. This is the kind of movie that makes nitwits feel empowered and that nobody older than 20 can possibly get.

Here’s the kicker: Despite its best efforts to command the gross-out sweepstakes, ‘‘Superbad” is really little more than a nice old-fashioned morality tale at heart.