Knocked Up

Knocked Up

Film review by: Witney Seibold



            Judd Apatow, with “Knocked Up,” has now become this generation’s John Hughes. Or perhaps Cameron Crowe. Well, actually, our generation still has those guys, but what with the disappointing “Elizabethtown” from the latter, and endless straight-to-video “Beethoven” sequels from the former, perhaps Apatow has received the master’s mantle of the enheartened teen/young adult comedies. Apatow may actually be more like a Preston Sturges for us.


           Apatow usually starts his film with broad types (nerds, stoners, bickersome couples), puts them in usual sitcom situations (fish-out-of-water, mismatched couple), and somehow makes them into real human beings. His dialogue is never contrived, the plot develops in a natural manner, and the humor is never forced. He pushes situations that sound passé and quotidian though an honesty wringer.


            The situation of “Knocked Up” is the following: Alison (Katherine Heigl from “Bride of Chucky”) is a go-getter who still lives with her sister’s family (Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd), but is moving up in the world as a recently-promoted interviewer for E! Television. Ben (Seth Rogan from “Freaks & Geeks” and most of Apatow’s projects) is a pothead who is living on a medical settlement and dreams of starting a celebrity-nudity website with his stoner roommates. Ben is a schlump and a slob, but has a sense of humor, and knows where he stands in life. He’s appealingly self-deprecating. Alison is a go-getter, but is laidback enough to survive the constant arguments in her sister’s house. The two of them end up in the same bar one night, they both drink too much, and end up in her bed together.


            A few months later, Alison tracks down Ben, announcing that she is pregnant. No one on Alison’s family approves of Ben, but this is not a story of Ben’s struggle for acceptance. This is not Ben’s immature struggle about letting go of his friends, and moving into a yuppie-porn lifestyle. This is about the two of them struggling with the very real practicalities of becoming parents, and, more importantly, trying to come to some kind of common ground as a couple. She treats him poorly at times, he saves his bong before his girlfriend. Can they fall in love? And what kind of couple will they be? And what kind of parents will they be? And can Apatow give them heart and humanity? (The answer to that last one is “yes.”)


            Mismatched couple makes good, but outside of the overly-familiar walls of the half-hour sitcom. I think this is a very personal story to Apatow, who often felt the rushed need to grow up when his wife (Mann herself) became pregnant, as well as the low self-esteem crush that some woman would deign to sleep with him and love him.


            Seth Rogan is a brilliant comedian, although he seems to be playing largely himself in most of his roles. Luckily his wry and sarcastic life-view is appealing. He;’ probably thrilled that it’s his face on the film’s advertising posters with the threatening slogan “What if this guy got you pregnant?” Heigl does not just panic and replay the pregnant woman role we’ve seen in countless pregnancy comedies. Leslie Mann, as the panicky sister has real, palpable reasons for panicking. And Paul Rudd needs to play this kind of role more often, as he knows exactly how to play the wounded and ironically misanthropic friend; I would watch a 90-minute film with Rogan and Rudd exchanging insults (watch the outtakes from “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” video for an extended sequence of this).

             I love this film for making the palate of the raunch comedy seem fresh and moving again. I was really put off by gross comedies like “American Pie” and its sequels, to the point that some lauded recent raunch-romcoms like “Wedding Crashers” just scared me off. Apatow proves that this kind of film can be gross, and deal with familiar things, but still move us.                       

Published in: on June 13, 2007 at 10:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

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