Superbad hews close to the Judd Apatow TM formula, combining crude verbal invention with what's ultimately a rather sweet centre. Greg Mottola, who helmed half a dozen episodes of Apatow's television series Undeclared, is the director for hire on this occasion, and while he reinforces the sense that he's a very fine director of actors, he could probably afford to be a little less respectful of the script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
The film is rather slow going at first, getting bogged down in lengthy verbal set pieces before setting up a familiar high school party scenario. Jonah Hill, in particular, is called on to deliver a series of turn-the-air-blue rants that might usefully have been edited a little more tightly, not least because the repetition renders the character as something of a one-trick-pony. Once the plot is set properly in motion, with the main characters embarking on a liquor-buying expedition, the film heats up. It's a surprisingly self-aware enterprise at times, with the characters themselves reliving especially hilarious moments either with the aid of CCTV tapes or through their own retelling of the story before it has even come to a conclusion.
Mottola does a fine job, as the action unfolds, of ensuring that each of the central characters has a moment to shine, though débutant Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who tears through the film delivering every line as though it's his very last, threatens to upstage everyone, especially more subtle performers like Michael Cera. There's also an air of warm nostalgia about the film - which recaptures something of the atmosphere of a high school standout like Dazed and Confused, which also took place over just one evening - despite the very contemporary setting, as if the characters are already looking past the end of high school to something more, while Mottola captures the Los Angeles locations with a surprising, low-key glow more usually reserved for small-town life.