Monday, April 26, 2010

Archive: "Knocked Up" (2007)

The guy who brought us "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" is back again, this time tackling pregnancy. Writer-director Judd Apatow is the master of comedy with his latest outing, "Knocked Up," a nearly flawless movie that even surpasses Apatow's previous work. With the same mix of sentimentality and raunchiness, we are given an era-defining comedy that is current, genuine, and downright hilarious. It's really something you have to see to believe. This is hands-down the best comedy of the year, and also one of the best movies of the year.

The premise is simple: A shlub hooks up with a successful woman in a bar, they have some drunken sex, the woman gets pregnant, and the shlub does the best he can to help out. This slacker is a guy named Ben (Seth Rogen) who is unemployed, sits around with his stoner buddies, smokes pot, and really has no intention of doing much else. The woman is a career-oriented beauty named Alison (Katherine Heigl) who just got a big promotion at her interviewing job at the E! studio. To celebrate, she goes to a bar and that's when the hook-up happens. Ben and Alison have their little fling, have an awkward conversation over breakfast the next morning, and never really hear from each other again. That is, until eight weeks later.

What's so darling is that these two are not right for each other in every sense. And yet, their growing relationship has a sincere sweetness to it that is undeniable. They are not romantic and are not living some planned-out life together, and you can see the ending to their story from the start, but every single scene getting there is worth it. A sex scene, for example, where Ben nearly faints because he can't stand the idea that his penis might be poking the baby in the face is gut-bustingly hilarious and ridiculous.

Seth Rogen--who acted alongside Steve Carell in "Virgin"--lights up the screen with his infectious down-to-earth demeanor. He cracks crude one-liners like they're nothing, and he's fresh, funny, good-spirited, and self-deprecating. Katherine Heigl from "Grey's Anatomy" is just as lovely here, bringing the same widespread emotions she presents on television. She's hormonal, enraged, and also sympathetic and kind. The two of these actors together makes for great chemistry.

Throughout the movie, we also get quality doses of Alison's married sister, Debbie (Leslie Mann), and her restless husband, Pete (Paul Rudd). Here are two other actors with spot-on comic timing. Their characters in the movie don't exactly provide something for Alison and Ben to necessarily look up to. Their marriage is, as Pete describes, an unfunny version of "Everybody Loves Raymond" that lasts forever, and it provides an example of the behavioral observation that Apatow uses as his comedic fodder. There are lengthy scenes of not only them, but also Ben and Alison, simply arguing with each other. It feels real and like actual arguments because neither side really wins; that's life. The F-word goes flying every other word, and it's totally acceptable because it's used tastefully even in excess. Apatow's trademark mix of the profane and the sentimental is what makes all of the characters, even all of Ben's slacker buddies, feel like real people.

So yeah, Judd Apatow really knows what's up. He knows how to make it feel real, current, and knows how to deliver the laughs. There are even numerous cameos including one from E!'s very own Ryan Seacrest, who dishes out a hysterical tyrant with words you thought you would never hear him say. Many other pop culture references are abound, too, including humorous references to "Spider-Man 3," and even a bash at "Lost"'s Matthew Fox where Ben says something about him we've all already been thinking.

There are boobs, there are the geeks who love the boobs, but there are also the owners of the boobs who have a cry together and try to get into clubs. And then there are the pregnancy tests, the gynecologists, the baby books, and, yes, even a crowning shot. It's all there and accounted for, and somehow ingeniously blended together into one perfect comedy gem. It's in this way that I guess you could call this a romantic comedy for both sexes. It's raunchy enough for the guys and also heartwarming enough for the ladies. But, that's like calling this just one great date movie, and that's not all what "Knocked Up" is. It's a comedy for everyone and a movie about life and the crap life can toss at us and how to deal with the crap and grow from it, and learn from it, and simply mature as adults the very best anybody can.

It's this stuff that makes "Knocked Up" such a breath of fresh air. It's a comedy with a big heart that's in the right place, and it always knows when to be profane and when to be sweet. Everything here is delivered with such sincerity and cheer that you can't help but smile and, of course, laugh your ass off the entire time. It is great fun, it made me happy, and I loved every minute of it.

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