Just another high school comedy?

When all is said and done, Superbad is actually pretty good

DIRTY BIRDS<br>Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Jonah Hill plug into the information (wink-wink) super-highway.

Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Jonah Hill plug into the information (wink-wink) super-highway.

Rated 3.0

As a quasi-mature take on the horny immaturity of teenage males trying to lose their virginity before they go off to college, Superbad is often very funny, sometimes very smart and charming as well.

Since it is also an R-rated teen flick with an amusing assortment of crude wisecracks and gross-out antics, there is a special element of surprise in the discovery of a distinctive sensitivity in its chief characters and key performances.

Stuff like that has added a certain critical prestige to the production’s box-office punch, but this comedy is probably at its best when it’s being funny and astute but not making too much of that sensitive side.

The central characters are two brightly self-conscious, hormone-crazed and contrastingly geeky young guys—Seth (chunky Jonah Hill) and Evan (beguilingly gangly Michael Cera). Both are charmingly goofy kids staggering under the burdens of juvenile innocence combined with adult urges. A sometime-friend of both, the über-nerd Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, in an exceptional debut) complicates the mix in several ways.

The screenplay by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (note those first names) is sometimes too witty for its own good, and Greg Mottola’s direction is lackluster throughout. But Hill, Cera and Mintz-Plasse are engaging and effective in bridging the gaps in the script’s peculiar combinations of formulaic rowdiness and offbeat pathos.

The overall result is both an indulgence and a critique of teen-male fantasies. Each of the three young guys gets an unexpectedly revealing night of reckoning with the girl of his current dreams, and the offbeat character-touches in the girlfriends add to the film’s array of small surprises.

But while it transcends certain genre clichés, the film still tries to do a little too much. Overlapping misadventures involving the teens with two increasingly farcical young policemen (one of whom is played by Rogen) are pointlessly extended, and a detour into a gang-bangers party undercuts the kids’ all-white suburbia without really opening things up into any larger vision.