Mark Reviews Movies


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Judd Apatow

Cast: Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr, Charlyne Yi, Joanna Kerns, Harold Ramis, Alan Tudyk, Kristen Wiig

MPAA Rating:   (for sexual content, drug use and language)

Running Time: 2:09

Release Date: 6/1/07

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Review by Mark Dujsik

With The 40 Year Old Virgin and now Knocked Up, writer/director Judd Apatow has found a unique niche for himself in combining the off-color humor of a gross-out comedy with the trappings of a romantic comedy and somehow making the blend work seamlessly with genuine heart at its center. It's refreshing to have a distinct male voice in this genre and one that drives his stories with recognizable, relatable characters. Knocked Up is filled to the brim with pop culture references and celebrity cameos, but it's the spot-on perspective of men being men in every facet of their lives that provides the film with its most relevant humor. Apatow takes it a step further, though, and studies how relationships with the fairer sex (relationships: those pesky things that sometimes result from or are the only way to get sex) hinder the behavior that guys think men should do to be men and can (in the right relationship, obviously) help a guy grow into the kind of man one should be. It's rough terrain, and even though the film has a considerably pesky stretch of downtime, it marks a more mature worldview and understanding of relationships from his last film (which, given the material, was surprisingly mature in the first place).

Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) lives an incredibly laid back life. He has no job and spends his days hanging out with his buds, drinking and smoking bud. Their master plan is to start a website that lets users find out movies and the time within those movies that actresses disrobe (if that sounds familiar, don't worry, it comes up (and shame on you)). Meanwhile, Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) is his polar opposite. She lives with in the guest house of her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) and brother-in-law Pete's (Paul Rudd) home, drives her nieces to school, and works for E! News. Say what you will about Ryan Seacrest, but the guy is a good sport about poking fun at himself, as he does here in a very funny cameo. Anyway, Alison gets some big news from her bosses Jack (Alan Tudyk) and Jill (Kristen Wiig, a scene-stealing riot as she tries to offset spite with timidity), and she immediately accepts a promotion as an on-camera personality. To celebrate, Alison and Debbie go out to a club where Ben and his friends also happen to be partying.  Alison and Ben hit it off (alcohol helps), and after some confusion about a condom, they do the deed.

The morning after is awkward, but even worse occurs when three months later, Alison starts to feel morning sickness (during an interview with James Franco, no less) and discovers she's pregnant (one pregnancy test isn't enough). She manages to contact Ben and breaks the news; he reacts "unfavorably" at first. There are a couple of scenes Apatow is smart to include in the interim before Ben and Alison try out a relationship. One is between Alison and her mother (Joanna Kerns), where options about the pregnancy are discussed, and the other is between Ben and his father (Harold Ramis), where Ben is shocked to learn he was the best thing to ever happen to his dad. They aren't necessary to moving the action forward, but it gives a sense of what could be at stake for each of them. There's also some blunt but understandable and sweet honesty from Ben, who has never had any responsibility his entire life, when he tells Alison, "I don't know what I need to do; you can help me by telling me what I can do." The relationship progresses naturally and affectionately here, as they bashfully hold hands while shopping for baby needs and Ben hears a woman say she loves him for the first time.

It's all about Ben finally growing up, and does he ever need to. When Alison meets his friends for the first time, they're discussing intimate matters of personal hygiene. It's not so easy, though, when Ben has Pete telling him that "all your hopes and dreams go out the window" when one has a kid and Alison has Debbie telling her she should listen to Oprah and actively try to change Ben. Plus there's the fact that for all of Ben's good intentions, he doesn't follow through entirely with them. Some of this goes on too much, and there's an entire subplot where Debbie thinks Pete might be cheating on her that ultimately sends both central relationships into a tailspin. Still, Apatow cares about these characters, and as a result, we start to sympathize with the controlling Debbie, who just wants to have some attention from her husband, and to see Pete as a bit of a scoundrel, even if his jaded outlook is appealing. The performances here are spot on, with Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl playing the ups of a new relationship and the downs of an inescapable, life-changing event with true vulnerability.

I have made the film sound sentimental, and while it is, it's also occasionally uproarious and disgusting in the humor department. The cause of pink eye is discussed (Ben's friends are always good for a sick joke), Ben worries about what the baby will see when he and Alison have sex, the difficulties of finding a (sane) gynecologist are explored, and the wonders of childbirth get a close-up. Knocked Up, though, is sweet and disarming in the way it reveals its humanity.

Copyright 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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