The relentless comparisons to SUPERBAD in this film’s marketing really hurt stand on its own. It’s a perfectly good, enjoyable, well-made high school comedy…and SUPERBAD is its own, iconic film from a very different context. “Female SUPERBAD!” might sound like a catchy hook but it’s a disservice to both films, especially when what works well in BOOKSMART is more unique really.
The real thrust of the film is its deconstruction of the self-imposed martyr complex socially-challenged some hyperfocused students have, where they position their more social peers as ill-prioritised hooligans who will ‘suffer the consequences’ as adults. This has been a common ‘nerd narrative’ in a lot of films, for all its obvious clashing with reality, so to really cut through the essential cruelness and ignorance of it here was a novel choice, and it worked really well. None of that’s in SUPERBAD, with its protagonists always preening for debauchery and social mobility where that’s the premise-producing exception to the norm in this film.
The extent to which all the characters are humanised well beyond their stereotypes works really well, and distinguishes the film from a lot of its genre peers. The recent BLOCKERS did similar, and it speaks to an interesting shift in these sorts of teen stories. It’s a far cry from the tropey vindictiveness of the 80s, certainly.
There’s a general lack of ceremony to the film that makes it a breezy and comfortable watch, but not exactly filled with breakout moments. While the characterisations are refreshing, the structure of the film and essential comic nature of its setups are tired. Some scenes drag, and there’s perhaps too much reliance on licensed music to sell the emotions of some scenes. But it’s a good enough time that nothing really grates. Three phone charging cables, and a one take pool shot.