The summer's biggest sleeper hit in the US, Knocked Up arrives trailing rave word of mouth and the highest expectations.
It's not a perfect film, by any means, but yes, this one lives up to the hype. It's regularly laugh-out-loud funny, and should do for Seth Rogen what writer-director Judd Apatow's The 40-Year-Old Virgin did for Steve Carell. Indeed, Rogen looks like a very hot prospect (or he would, if slackerdom didn't preclude anything so basely careerist). He's a natural cut-up, with a wry, sardonic wit - and he appears not to censor himself. (You may remember him trading gay gags with Paul Rudd in Virgin.)
He's Ben Stone, a vaguely debauched pothead who's still living with his college buddies, Jason (Jason Segel), Jay (Jay Baruchel), Jonah (Jonah Hill) and Martin (Martin Starr). He's also the big, fat, hairy butt of the joke when pretty, goal-oriented TV presenter Alison (Katherine Heigl) wakes up hung-over one morning and wonders who or what is in the bed next to her. It's a one-night stand she would rather forget - Ben's only employment seems to be a porno internet startup - but an unwanted reminder makes itself known some eight weeks later.
She's adamant about having the baby, and he wants to do the right thing. First, though, the parents will have to get to know each other and find out if they can fall in like.
None of this is exactly unexpected (to us anyway) and as the movie gestates the pregnancy's ballooning crises feel more than a tad familiar, from finding the right obstetrician to the inevitable push-comes-to-shove about-face on an epidural. But if this material has been thoroughly homogenized by decades of situation comedy it's still a recognizable reality for many of us, and even the most hackneyed situations get a new lease of life from Apatow's ruder instincts, which are steeped in the vulgar, anarchic energies of adolescent angst.
Like a lot of recent comedy on both sides of the Atlantic, including The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up is hung up on the arrested development of the male sub-species. Apatow knows the type well, and tends to indulge the shtick between Ben and his housemates. They are funny though.
He's less comfortable when it comes to the other sex - it's never quite clear why Alison is living with her married sister Debbie (Leslie Mann), and it's certainly a stretch that she and Ben never even discuss the abortion issue. (Apparently Ben's roomies will chew over the topic on the DVD's deleted scenes.) Ben's side-trip to Vegas with his putative brother in law (Paul Rudd) is a comic highlight, but arguably undermines the romance; whatever they say about it afterwards, the two men seem to have more fun together than with their partners.
At least Heigl and Mann get their share of laughs. This is essentially a compatibility comedy, a bit like the screwball classics of the 1930s, which reveled in that old saw about the attraction of opposites. Over the course of the movie, Alison has to lighten up some, while Ben must get his act together so that they can meet in the middle.
In other words underneath the sexual candor, salty language and promiscuous drug use this is a pretty MOR movie. In a nice touch, the end credits are illustrated with the cast and crew's baby pictures. Like most pregnancies, it goes on too long, but in the end Knocked Up definitely delivers on the belly laughs.
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