Knocked Up (2007) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for sexual content, drug use, and language
Running time: 132 min.
Cast: Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Leslie Mann, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr, Harold Ramis, Alan Tudyk, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, James Franco (cameo), Steve Carell (cameo), Fergie (cameo)
Director: Judd Apatow
Screenplay: Judd Apatow
Writer-director Judd Apatow follows up his smash debut film, The 40-Year-Old Virgin with another successful comedy, Knocked Up, which may even best the out-and-out laughs quotient of his very funny previous effort. It's a very adult comedy, albeit with a juvenile sense of humor, not dissimilar in terms of the crass kinds of comedies you'd expect from The Farrelly Brothers or Adam Sandler, but for one major difference. Apatow gives us characters we can believe in, and we can grow to like. We laugh at their situations because they smack of genuine inspiration, exaggerated sitcom antics that never stretch beyond the character limits to score cheap laughs.
The premise is simple: Ben Stone (Rogen, You Me and Dupree) is a jobless slacker in his mid-20s. Alison Scott (Heigl, Caffeine) is a rising star on the E! network on cable. The two meet in a club, get drunk, and end up in bed together. Through a miscommunication, Ben ends up doing the deed without a condom, resulting in -- you guessed it -- Alison getting pregnant. She contacts Ben to let him know, as well as her intentions on having the baby, and though the two are mismatched partners, they decide to try to see if they might work as a couple, for the sake of a family unit.
Comic dialogue this good and characters this original could only come from personal experience, which Apatow taps into with vivid and often hysterical flair. Despite some of the crude humor and typical pothead shenanigans, there is a sweetness to the characterizations that keeps us liking them despite their obvious flaws, partially because they know they are losers. Unlike most dumb comedies, Apatow has great affection for his characters, and we like them because he enjoys showcasing them, taking great care in developing them as more than just joke fodder. Solid performances abound, with especially impressive comedic efforts by the leads, Heigl and Rogen.
Funny scenes abound, many of them not necessarily related to the pregnancy issue. Such moments as a breakout of pink eye, an argument with a club doorman, a fantasy baseball gathering, a bet involving the growing of a beard and the ridicule the man must endure to keep it, and an upstart website that Ben and his stoner friends have been diligently working on all add terrific comedic moments. Although there have been many films about pregnancy and the fears involved in having a baby, there are angles here not often taken before in comedy, including what goes through a man's mind when having sex with a pregnant woman ("I don't want that to be the first thing the baby sees", etc.) that is funny (because it probably actually does go through a man's mind). Apatow's dialogue is very pop culture savvy, which adds a great deal to the genuine quality of the comedy. We get this movie because it gets us.
If there were any area that Knocked Up could be improved, it would be in winnowing down the material to about 100-minute length (it clocks in at a whopping 132 minutes -- almost unheard of for such a light romantic comedy). As the producers of the E! show tell Alison, it's not that it needs to lose weight, so much as it could use some "tightening". While it might be a chore to extract whole scenes from the film due to the fact that most are very funny, many of the characters and sub-stories are superfluous, and could have easily been worked into a future Apatow comedy if need be. I should point out that it is a minor gripe, as it still delivers one's money's worth, but the weakest portion of the film is the final 20-25 minutes when Alison goes into labor and can't seem to locate her doctor. Restlessness, perhaps due to the length, seeps in more than it should once we hit these less comedic moments.
I suppose one could also accuse the film of being nothing but a raunchy extended sitcom, but writing this fresh and funny is nothing to be derided, regardless of medium. The feelings of love are also a bit underdeveloped. However, does anyone really want sticky sentimentality, authentic or not, in the middle of their ribald comedy? Like its stars, Knocked Up is a funny, bloated amuser that doesn't have high aspirations, nevertheless we like its lackadaisical attitude and irreverent wittiness. The premise may be old hat, but it's the creativity that gives birth to solid belly-laughs throughout.
©2007 Vince Leo