×

‘Supercool’ Review: A Magical Upgrade Makes for Familiar but Energetic Raunchy High School Hijinks

Finnish filmmakers wade into very American comedy terrain with this lively if uneven teen fantasy, featuring a hilarious cameo from Damon Wayans Jr.

Supercool
Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment

With both title and central buddy dynamic tipping hat to “Superbad,” among other raunchy teen comedies, “Supercool” is not the kind of movie that wins prizes for originality. Nor is Finnish director Teppo Airaksinen’s first U.S.-shot, English-language project as outrageous as it thinks it is. Nonetheless, this energetic spin through high school antics redolent of everything since “Ferris Bueller” is colorful and amusing enough to entertain viewers looking for a familiar mix of bad-taste gags in a squeaky-clean suburban setting. Vertical Entertainment is releasing it to 20 U.S. theater screens as well as on-demand platforms Feb. 11.

Things commence with an over-the-top action sequence in which Neil (Jake Short) rescues classmate Summer (Madison Davenport) from the clutches of a masked maniac after she’s abducted from their school bus. But this turns out to be one more fantasy from Neil’s vivid imagination, which he channels into the superhero comics he draws with precocious flair. The sole person who gets to peek at those panels is best/only friend Gilbert (Miles J. Harvey), a fellow virgin who’s as pushy re: his non-existent romantic prospects as Neil is shy. In fact, Neil has never even spoken to dreamgirl Summer. When Gilbert goads him into doing just that, he’s so nervous their cafeteria encounter curdles into a major embarrassment, of the uncontrollable-bodily-fluids type.

In the great tradition of “Zapped!” (as well as more-respectable “Big”), some random magical thingie grants our protagonist’s dearest wish to be thought “cool,” albeit just for 24 hours. Ergo, the next morning he wakes up transformed into the generic handsomeness and ripped body of his illustrations’ superhero (Josh Cranston). After managing to convince caustically supportive sis Jaclyn (Odessa A’zion) as well as Gilbert that he’s still Neil beneath this sudden hotness, the boys set about exploiting his new status as a “walking sex stick.”

That principally means getting an invite to Summer’s birthday party this evening. But it also encompasses a variety of subsidiary misadventures with an omnipresent Uber driver (Jonathan Kite), an exhibitionist drug dealer (Peter Moses), at an anything-goes gay dance party (hosted by stand-up star Iliza Shlesinger), being pursued by cops (Greg Cromer, Luis Fernandez-Gil), and so forth. Many of these detours are further complicated by the involvement of Neil’s Porsche-salesman neighbor Jimmy (Damon Wayans Jr.), a seemingly unflappable playboy type who turns out to be one very hot mess, with a particular penchant for robbing convenience stores just cuz.

While “Supercool” is too breezy to be offensive, its more outré ideas have a tendency to fall rather flat, seeming effortful rather than funny — with the exception of Wayans, who does pull off a character whose berserk esprit seems very tailored to this performer. It’s actually the more grounded elements that work best, from the good chemistry between leads to an unexpectedly charming climax at which Neil and Gilbert “win” the birthday party by doing the corny videogame dance they’ve practiced a million times at home. (In an otherwise fun soundtrack of various-artist pop tracks, however, it seems a bit lazy that this showpiece is set to Haddaway’s “What Is Love?,” already infamous from Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan’s Roxbury Guys sketches on “Saturday Night Live.”)

If their material is less than stellar, the cast still seems to be having great fun with it, A’zion in particular bringing a welcome note of wise snark reminiscent of Diana Lynn’s kid sis in “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek.” While credibility is not a major priority here, one major point of disbelief requires suspending: Former child Disney series regular Short is no one’s idea of an undateable dweeb. So Neil’s supposed upgrade to the fleetingly-glimpsed alter ego dubbed “Ace” feels like exchanging distinctive, quirky good looks for the bland appeal of a catalog model.

The jokes might fall notably flatter than they do if “Supercool” didn’t do a fair job living up to its title in all design departments, their contributions creating a slick, genial package. Burns Burns’ production design, Natalia Collazo’s costumes, Cory Geryak’s widescreen cinematography and more take pains to provide a lot of vividly hued stimulation, all propelled along by Jussi Rautaniemi’s lively editorial pace. One element that doesn’t elevate is the somewhat routinely antic synth sounds of Jacques Brautbar’s original score.

‘Supercool’ Review: A Magical Upgrade Makes for Familiar but Energetic Raunchy High School Hijinks

Reviewed online, Feb. 8, 2022. Running time: 92 MIN.

  • Production: (Finland-U.S.) A Vertical Entertainment release of a Yellow Film & TV production in cooperation with Finnish Film Foundation, SF Studios, MTV3, Elisa Viihde. Producer: Olli Haikka. Executive producers: Scott Einbinder, Heikki Herlin, Peter Barkman, Jorma Reinila, Giancarlo J. Sini, Eric Goren, Patricia Goren, Marko Talli. Co-producers: Warren Ostergard, Cherelle George.
  • Crew: Director: Teppo Airaksinen. Screenplay: Ali Moussavi, Olli Haikka, based on an original manuscript by Eric Goren, Patricia Goren. Camera: Cory Geryak. Editor: Jussi Rautaniemi. Music: Jacques Brautbar.
  • With: Jake Short, Miles J. Harvey, Madison Davenport, Iliza Shlesinger, Damon Wayons Jr., Odessa A’zion, Kira Kosarin, Madison Bailey, Will Meyers, Jonathan Kite, Greg Cromer, Luis Fernandez-Gil, Peter Moses, Peter Holden, Jean Villepique, Joshua Cranston, Ankur Bhatt.