Evan and Seth are close. Really close. Too close.
They chat on their cell phones even as Seth pulls into Evan's driveway to drive him to school. When Seth has a girl-related epiphany, he interrupts Evan's gym class to tell him. They hang out together after school, too—mostly to drink and watch Internet porn. They're inseparable. But, with their senior year in high school drawing to a close, big changes are afoot. Evan is going to Dartmouth come fall. Seth is not. Separation anxiety, anyone?
They're distracted from their inevitable futures, though, when third-wheel friend Fogell, who looks all of 14, gets a fake ID. It's a Hawaiian driver's license that says he's 25 and named "McLovin."
"One name?" Evan moans. "Who are you, Seal?"
Nevertheless, the ID opens the door for the three to buy booze for a massive party designed to impress the ladies. Not just any ladies, mind you: Evan, the romantic, has had a crush on a girl named Becca for years. Seth wants to have sex with the beautiful Jules, but he figures the only way she'll acquiesce is if she's drunk.
The perfect plan? Hardly. Fogell's spin through the liquor store takes a wrong turn when a hooded man robs the place, punching Fogell out in the process. Responding police officers question "McLovin," compliment him on his hip, happenin' name and take him on a drunken, siren-filled cruise through town.
Seth and Evan, waiting outside, see Fogell carted off by the cops and figure he's been busted. While Evan worries about Fogell, Seth is more concerned with getting the booze. And when another opportunity presents itself, they take it: Hit by a car, Seth tells the driver—a creepy guy who asks Evan if he has a MySpace page—that a little kickback of booze'll keep the cops away from the accident. No prob, the driver says. I was on my way to a party anyway and we can get some there. Why don't you hop in?
The filmmakers call Seth and Evan's friendship "ridiculously dependant," and it's certainly not always healthy. But the two boys' devotion to each other is unquestioned—albeit misguided at times.
When a wasted Becca looks prime for the picking, sexually speaking, Evan recoils at the thought—particularly since he's sober and she isn't. "Isn't that, like, unethical?" he asks. He tries to shake off this dire dilemma by getting drunk himself, and he and Becca strip in a bedroom. But he still can't go through with it.
Seth tells Evan that a woman getting breast-reduction surgery is "slapping God across the face" by altering such a "gift."
Flashback: A fourth-grade Seth is "ministered" to by a principal Seth describes as a religious nut. The man is shown holding a Bible, and he lays hands on Seth to "cure" him of his evil predilections.
If all sexual content were to be cut from this film, the remaining footage wouldn't even fill a commercial break on cable. Nudity is shown in two porn-related instances. In the first, Seth and Evan look at the cover of a magazine and comment on the model's exposed breasts. In the other, Seth, Evan and Fogell watch a porn clip on a laptop computer. Audiences see the clip for only a couple of seconds, but it's long enough to register the fact that nude people are performing explicit acts. (Seth and Evan talk about the pros and cons of various porn sites.)
Seth's fourth-grade artistic pastime—that of drawing erect penises—takes up far more screen time, both in flashback form and as the credits roll. The drawings are graphic, realistic and, in many cases, surreal, with genitalia anthropomorphizing into athletes, soldiers and historical figures.
Fogell and his high school infatuation are shown in bed together, Fogell on top. A remark by Fogell makes it clear the two are having sex. (She's in her underwear; Fogell is shown from only the waist up.)
Becca also is shown in her underwear, dancing and writhing on top of Evan. The camera lingers on her cleavage as she talks dirty to him. Evan eyes Becca's breasts in algebra class; Seth ogles Evan's mom's breasts. A joke is made of Evan accidentally punching one of Becca's breasts. Seth mimes sexual acts on an unsuspecting Jules. A woman dances naughtily with Seth, leaving menstrual blood on his leg.
Seth regales Evan with tales of his last sexually charged relationship. Evan tells Seth he's bringing a condom and spermicidal lube to the party. And on it goes.
One more sexual note: After Seth and Evan party, they sleep next to each other on the floor in sleeping bags and drunkenly confess how much they love each other. "It's the most beautiful thing in the world," Evan says. Seth pats Evan on the cheek and holds him in his arms. The next morning, a very nervous Seth wakes with a start. And before he leaves, he makes a crude comment about Evan's mom's breasts, as it to reaffirm to both himself and Evan that he doesn't "like" men.
As Seth mulls stealing vodka from a liquor store, he imagines getting into a fight with the security guard—the climax of which features the guard slicing through Seth's throat with a broken bottle. Blood squirts from Seth's neck.
And it's not just in his mind that Seth gets roughed up. He's twice hit by cars—once smashing into the windshield of a police cruiser. He's thumped on the back of the head with a thrown baseball bat. He passes out and, while he falls, thwacks Jules in the eye with his forehead, leaving both of them with bruises. He gets into a confrontation with a large partygoer, whose girlfriend he was apparently dancing with.
Fogell gets waylaid by the liquor-store thief. Seth and Evan's creepy benefactor—the guy who was going to get them alcohol at the party—gets punched and kicked and knocked around. Seth and Evan get into a pushing fight. A police officer clubs a partyer who spits on him. Fogell takes down a drunk troublemaker at a bar after police fail to catch him.
Crude or Profane Language
Characters use the f-word nearly 200 times during the 110-minute film—one every half minute or so. You would think they wouldn't have time to say anything else, and yet they do: The s-word clocks in at around 75 times, and countless crude and obscene references are made to male and female body parts. God's name is misused about a dozen times, sometimes alongside "d--n." Jesus' name is abused at least once.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Sex is Seth and Evan's objective. Alcohol is the fuel that powers them toward it. Our first encounter with the substance is during a small get-together, where the film's three protagonists shotgun cans of beer. Subsequently, nearly every single person in the film (including two on-duty police officers) is shown drinking and/or drunk.
After joining up with Fogell, the officers answer a "call" at a bar. They apprehend the bad 'un, then stick around to drink a little. "Can I get 13 beers to go, please?" asks one of them as they leave. They and Fogell proceed to drink those 13 beers. They get so lit that the officers have a flashlight/saber war in the car and crash into Seth (who is fighting with Evan in the street).
"I can't believe this is happening again," says one officer as he gets out of the car.
Jules doesn't drink, but even she is convinced that every party—even one loaded with underage high schoolers—needs oodles of booze.
Evan accidentally finds himself sequestered in a room with a handful of cocaine abusers. The stoned dudes convince Evan to sing them a song as they mellow out and snort.
Other Negative Elements
Because most of the drinkers in Superbad are, oh, 17, they must lie, steal and cheat to get alcohol. And the cops don't pay for the beer they drink in the bar—claiming they must rush from the scene to go on another call.
When they hit Seth with their squad car, the officers ask Fogell to sign an affidavit saying that Seth jumped into the middle of the road without warning. Later, they proffer Fogell with another affidavit, which states that a mysterious evildoer stole the squad car and did who-knows-what to it. This second document allows the cops and Fogell to do doughnuts in the parking lot, crash the car into a pillar and set the thing on fire. The officers then give Fogell one of their handguns and allow him to shoot out the vehicle's windows.
Those same police officers make a sham arrest of Fogell, dragging him off as he flails and cusses at them. "That's going to get you so much a--," they tell him in the squad car as they drive away.
No surprise then that responsible adults are largely absent from Superbad. The few that might have a clue seem to exist only as objects of ridicule. Seth swears at teachers and salivates over Evans' mom.
Superbad was produced by Judd Apatow and written by Seth Rogen, two of the guys behind the success of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Rogen (who plays one of the police officers) wrote the original script while in high school, then rejiggered it once his career took off.
"If they made it 10 years ago, it would be a lot of [penis] jokes," Rogen told CNN. "Now it's a lot of [penis] jokes with heart," Apatow added.
Superbad's heart, though, is hard to find—submerged as it is beneath f-words and a mountain of raunch. More prominent is the film's effort to glamorize a host of social ills: drunk driving, drug abuse and underage sex, to name a few. It makes a two-hour joke out of law enforcement. And it tells young teens—a surprising number of whom found their way into and laughed their way out of the advance screening I attended—that drinking 'til you vomit is both normal and fun.
Some stats to chew on: 1) In 2005, nearly 17,000 people were killed in car crashes involving alcohol in the United States—almost 40 percent of all traffic fatalities. 2) Some 50,000 cases of alcohol poisoning are reported in the U.S. each year; approximately once every week, someone dies from it. 3) Studies show that alcohol is a factor in anywhere from 50 percent to 72 percent of rape and sexual assault cases among college students.
I wonder ... if stats like that were shown on the screen before and after Superbad, would everybody walk away thinking it was quite so funny?