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Judd Apatow is an old-school comedy filmmaker - the term "old-school" here, referring to classic comedies of the 1970s and '80s, not screwball comedies of the '30s and '40s. They're crude, they don't care much for being politically correct (although the jokes are so funny it would be impossible to deem them offensive anyway), they're smart, they're stupid, and they're hilarious - all of which makes them so much better than any '90s comedy, be it Sandler, Farley, or Farrelly brothers.
Apatow's second feature as director, Knocked Up, lives up to and in some ways surpasses the expectations that his first, The 40 Year Old Virgin, created. Starring Seth Rogen (who was also in Virgin) as Ben Stone, the film is a sweet but never sappy look at a slacker guy in his early '20s who meets an attractive go-getter girl in a bar one night (Grey's Anatomy's Katherine Heigl as Alison Scott), has messy, drunken sex, and impregnates her. From there, the film details the stops and starts that this immense upheaval causes in their lives, and ultimately how they deal with it on their way to semi-adulthood and becoming parents.
Rogen carries the film with his regular guy persona, which you have to figure is sort of like he is in real life, since it's not that far off from his character in Virgin. He and Heigl have an awkward chemistry that works perfectly, as their relationship develops from Alison's disgust at finding the stocky Ben in her bed on the morning after to her helping him with his Mr. Skin-aping Internet start-up that never really starts up. Rogen is truly funny, bouncing his comments, insults, and jokes off Heigl's relatively straight delivery, which makes them that much more effective.
The film opens with Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" playing over contrasting scenes of Ben and his friends backyard wrestling and taking bong hits, against Alison's neat and tidy existence at her sister (played by Apatow's wife, Leslie Mann)and her husband's (Paul Rudd) house. Without giving too much away, after Alison tells Ben that she's pregnant, Ben does his version of stepping up to the plate and accepting responsibility, which, of course, is full of emotional pratfalls and stumbles. The two do develop a genuine affection for each other, perhaps driven more by circumstance than anything else, as they are from such completely different worlds.
Apatow definitely has a knack for pointing out the amusing trials and annoyances of family life and rearing kids, and he also directs the children in the film without excessively pandering to their cuteness. As Alison drives her niece to school one morning, the girl matter-of-factly tells her that she Googled "murder" that morning. Her innocent deadpan is ridiculously funny, as Heigl plays her reaction fairly straight. Rudd and Rogen spend a good portion of the movie together being boneheaded guys and cracking jokes, but their borderline homosexual love for each other is played with a wink.
Many of the characters in Knocked Up are intensely flawed, but Apatow seems to relish in that universal part of the human condition. He doesn't attempt to tidy people up, as seen in the ugly screaming match that Alison and Ben engage in during a prenatal gynecological visit. Apatow's stark depictions are at the film's center; the nerves and tension that come along with people who aren't quite ready to accept life's responsibilities realizing that, as Ben's father (Harold Ramis) states, the unseen twists and turns are the whole point. SEE ALSO: www.knockedupmovie.com
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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