There is a mystery surrounding the film, Knocked Up and that mystery is how something this funny and crude could also be this moving and pure. Judd Apatow has done it again. Like his hit freshman effort, The Forty Year Old Virgin, Apatow and his team of hilarious writer/actors have delivered a film as side-splittingly funny as it is undeniably poignant.
Ben (Seth Rogen) is living every slacker’s dream. He shares a house outfitted with a swimming pool, American Gladiator-style games and enough pot to last till doomsday with his three best friends (half the cast of TV’s ill-fated Freaks and Geeks, including How I Met Your Mother’s Jason Segel). Ben spends his days goofing off and his nights partying hard. Across town, Alison (Grey’s Anatomy’s Katherine Heigl) couldn’t be more different. An entertainment reporter, Alison is an intense, ambitious go-getter who decides to celebrate a huge promotion by visiting a hip new nightclub. Her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) tells her to “be safe.” As Shakespeare’s Benedict would say, “There’s a double meaning in that.” Too bad Alison didn’t hear it.
We know what’s coming next. Ben and Alison bump into each other at the club and while Ben is not the kind of guy who would ever normally turn Alison’s head, after a few too many drinks, she finds him Prince Charming. One thing leads to another and Alison wakes up the next morning with a pudgy, scruffy stranger in her bed. If you think that is awkward, try calling him eight or so weeks later to tell him you’re pregnant.
With next to nothing in common except their mutual circumstances, Ben and Alison decide that getting to know each other is probably a good idea. They go shopping for baby clothes, read books like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” learn how to navigate pregnancy induced mood swings, and are introduced to each other’s friends and families.
Ben, the man who doesn’t ever want to grow up forms an unlikely friendship with Pete (the great Paul Rudd), Alison’s bother-in-law, who’s had to grow up faster than he ever anticipated. Pete and Debbie don’t exactly present a couple Ben and Alison can emulate. “Marriage is like an unfunny version of Everybody Loves Raymond,” Pete tells Ben one guy’s night out in Vegas, “but it doesn’t last 22 minutes…it lasts forever.”
While Ben and Alison’s affection for each other grows, the reality is that they are simply too different to remain together. She accuses him of never taking anything seriously. As the expectant father, Alison needs Ben to be more responsible—i.e. stop smoking pot and get a job. For his part, Ben believes Alison is incapable of lightening up and having a good time. They finally decide that, while they will remain in each other’s lives for the sake of the baby, a romantic relationship is out of the question. Or is it?
This description hardly sounds like the summation of this summer’s most uproarious comedy, and yet that is exactly what Knocked Up is. Somehow, some way, Apatow has crafted that rarest of gems that is equal parts heart and crass. Knocked Up charms even as it uplifts. We forgive the film its more absurdist moments—and trust me, it has them—because it has paid for the privilege with genuinely tender stretches that have no earthly business cohabitating in a film this hilarious.
Ultimately, Knocked Up is a coming of age story. The Ben holding his newborn child at the end of the film would barely recognize the lethargic layabout who followed the opening credits. Sure, the end is predictable, but what makes it work is the perfect balance of testosterone-laden antics and the romantic sweetness of a chick flick.
At just over two hours, Knocked Up is far longer than your usual comedic fare. But the film is certainly no worse for the wear. The one-liners come hard and fast and no doubt many viewers are going to want to come back for seconds just to catch what they missed the first time round. There is no actor here who doesn’t nail his role, from the leads and supporting cast to the half dozen, self-satirical cameos from such celebrities as Ryan Seacrest, B.J. Novak, James Franco and Steve Carell.
You cannot help but leave Knocked Up happy. Having just witnessed copious drug use, a tidal wave of profanity, and the crowning of a newborn baby’s head (yes, you read that right) you exit the theater doors feeling joyful and indeed hopeful. You can say that about very few things in life. Oh, Judd Apatow. How art thou so clever?
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