Review: Knocked Up
Apatow establishes himself as a master of the delicate art of offsetting lowbrow humor with enough convincingly tenderhearted moments to produce a picture with universal appeal
Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) and Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) are polar
opposites with nothing in common other than being twenty-somethings
living in Los Angeles.
She’s an ambitious, aspiring journalist who just landed her big break
as an on-air reporter for the E! Television Network. He, on the other
hand, is an unemployed underachiever who’s sharing a bachelor pad with
four equally-immature couch potatoes intent on delaying the onset of
Ben and his roommates typically hang out in their living room in a
weed-induced haze, making grandiose plans which never materialize to
launch a raunchy website called Flesh of the Stars. Straitlaced Alison,
by contrast, is on the fast track to the top of the showbiz ladder.
Well, she is at least until the fateful moment that a flirtatious,
curly-headed stranger approaches her in a pickup bar.
She isn’t actually into the singles scene, and is only in the club to
celebrate her promotion with her big sister, Debbie (Leslie Mann), a
jaded housewife stuck in a bad marriage. But that doesn’t discourage
Ben from inviting himself to join them and trying to lower Alison’s
resistance by plying her with beer. At the end of the evening, against
her better judgment, she invites him back to her apartment, where she
compounds that mistake by assuming a compromising position without
first making sure he’s using protection.
The next morning, as their hangovers wear off, they instantly grate on
each others nerves, making it abundantly clear that their
ill-advised abandon had been the result of an alcohol-fueled, temporary
insanity. So, they part company never expecting to set eyes on one another again.
Eight weeks later, however, after Alison has missed a couple of
periods, she determines that she’s expecting and tracks down her sperm
donor to let him know he’s going to be a daddy. Needless to say, Ben, a
sleazy slacker who would rather be chasing his next conquest than
changing diapers, takes the news of his impending fatherhood very badly.
This contentious premise provides plenty of opportunities not only for
further acrimony but also sows the seeds for potential post-coital
romance in Knocked Up, a coarse yet curiously charming
battle-of-the-sexes comedy written and directed by Judd Apatow (The 40
Year-Old Virgin). With this, just his second feature film, Apatow
establishes himself as a master of the delicate art of offsetting
lowbrow humor with enough convincingly tenderhearted moments to produce
a picture with universal appeal.
For fans of bodily function humor will undoubtedly relish all the bawdy
boys’ behavior back in Ben’s flat, as well as shocking sight gags
involving pregnant Alison barfing and giving birth. Meanwhile, audience
members inclined towards more sophisticated fare will undoubtedly
appreciate the badinage between her and Ben as she desperately
endeavors to make him over into marriage material before the arrival of
their bouncing bundle of joy.
The film relies heavily on a parallel subplot involving the strained
marriage of the ever-vigilant Debbie and her emotionally-exasperated
spouse, Pete (Paul Rudd). Debbie suspects him of cheating on her, and
cries on Alison’s shoulder while enlisting her assistance in her effort
to catch him in the act. The females’ spying hijinks are simultaneously
offset by Pete’s periodic male-bonding opportunities with
commitment-phobic Ben, who’s understandably reluctant to take advice
about walking down the aisle from a guy stuck in such a shaky
Knocked Up adds up to a hilarious family values flick which manages to
convince you that it’s possible to transform a misogynist into a doting
father on the guilt of an unplanned pregnancy. Sometimes, it’s fun to
pretend, and this just happens to be an excellent example of one of those occasions.
Excellent (4 stars) Rated R for premarital sexuality, coarse humor,
frontal nudity, drug and alcohol abuse, profanity and mature themes.
Running time: 129 minutes. Studio: Universal Pictures
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