June 1, 2007

Movie Review: Knocked Up

Posted in Movies at 8:45 pm by Calico Jack

What sets Knocked Up apart from other raunchy comedies is its heart, something lacking from movies that go solely for the gross-out gags and debauched humor. 2005’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin made a name for itself by taking its titular uncomfortable subject and, at the core of all of the surrounding randiness and dirty jokes, treating it with both sensitivity and genuine warmth. Writer-director Judd Apatow (also known for the classic TV show Freaks and Geeks) continues his tradition with Knocked Up, a lighthearted coming-of-age film that manages to convey more insights into the ups and downs of unplanned pregnancies than many films which tackle the subject quite seriously.

Allison Scott (Katherine Heigl) is a competent E! Channel producer with dreams of making it big in the entertainment business. Jobless and future-less Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) shares a house with his four stoner buddies (hilariously played by Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, and Martin Starr), doing little more each day than lighting up bongs and skimming movies for celebrity nude scenes. When Allison receives a promotion to on-air reporter, she and her caustic married sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) hit the town in celebration, eventually ending up at the same nightclub as Ben and his friends. The two meet, and after a night of drunken carousing end up in bed together, fumbling their way through the motions but too wasted to care. The morning after doesn’t go so well, as Allison realizes just how much of a lazy pothead Ben is. Ben, for his part, is simply happy to have slept with a girl at all, no matter if she’s disgusted with him later. They part ways, Ben to go home and brag to his friends and Allison to forget the thing even happened.

The title of Knocked Up gives the main plot twist away: eight weeks later, Allison discovers that’s she’s pregnant. Insistent on keeping the baby, she grudgingly realizes that the father ought to be involved in her life. Ben is completely clueless as to the responsibilities entailed in fatherhood, but — to his credit — he wants to do the right thing and support Allison, even if he’s a bit too narcissistic to realize just how much sacrificing of time, energy, and pot-filled evenings the next seven months will require. With the sometimes unwelcome assistance of Debbie’s acerbic tongue and her weary husband Pete (Paul Rudd), Allison and Ben begin to plan for the future…and perhaps grow a bit closer along the way.

This is all formulaic stuff, with few surprises before the wincingly painful-yet-funny childbirth scene that will inevitably leave audiences chattering long after the movie ends. The joy of Knocked Up is in the details, however, from the often hilarious potty-mouthed script which leaves no subject undiscussed to the difficulties Debbie and Pete face in their marriage. She’s extremely controlling, but loves her husband and their two children wholeheartedly; he would like to do nothing more than escape from her for days at a time. Their problems run throughout the entire movie, and serve as a nice counterbalance to the mostly sentimental romantic journey of Allison and Ben — although that pair are not without their own share of issues, especially Ben’s insecurity and Allison’s increasingly hormonal mood swings.

Knocked Up isn’t as consistently hilarious as The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and it suffers from some of the same problems that plagued the first film — especially its running time of 129 minutes, far too long for this sort of comedy. But it is just as warmhearted and touching as its predecessor, and contains a few hilarious cameos from Ryan Seacrest, Steve Carell, and Jessica Alba. Amidst Knocked Up‘s raucousness and raunch, two important themes stand out: even with its difficulties, marriage is important; and being a parent requires both maturity and sacrifice. Those are lessons well worth recommending.

B+.

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