Writer-director Judd Apatow follows-up his The 40 Year Old Virgin with a brutally honest and consistently hilarious comedy in Knocked Up. It’s easily the funniest film of the year so far and also one of the sweetest.
After stealing scenes in Virgin, Seth Rogan takes the lead as Ben Stone, an appropriate name considering his propensity toward getting stoned all the time. He lives in Los Angeles with a bunch of cronies, smoking weed all day and watching films to find the exact times when celebrities take off their clothes. They plan to parlay this hobby into a Web site, hoping to avoid the need for real jobs.
Alison (Katherine Heigl) is an ambitious production assistant at the E! channel, and she’s getting promoted to on-camera duties. Elated, she grabs her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) for a night out on the town and proceeds to drink … a lot. Ben Stone shows up at the same club with his cronies, and he proceeds to drink … a lot. Ben meets Alison, a woman who would normally be way out of his league, and they dance while drinking … a lot.
The two go to Alison’s home—which she shares with her sister’s family—and they have sex. The morning after is an appropriately awkward one, and they go their separate ways. Eight weeks later, Alison vomits on camera, much to the dismay of interviewee James Franco of Spidey 3 fame. She takes a few pregnancy tests, realizes who the daddy is, and the fun begins.
Apatow does a great job of making the Ben/Alison relationship believable, sweet and even horrifying at times. Ben is suddenly faced with a kind of responsibility he’s not used to, and he’s not exactly ready to step up to the plate. Alison isn’t going to latch onto the guy just because she’s pregnant, even if she does find his goofball charm kind of cute.
Rogan and Heigl positively make the most of their moment in the headliner spotlight. Rogan has a natural charisma and stunning aptitude when it comes to crude humor. He makes Ben a rather deplorable guy at times, but you can’t help liking him. Heigl is the movie’s emotional anchor, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be damned funny, as well. Her birthing scene is one for the ages.
I can honestly say that I wish Paul Rudd was in every movie coming out at multiplexes this summer. The guy is as versatile as they come. His performance as Pete, Debbie’s bemused husband, is just further proof of his brilliance. From his reaction to his wife’s constipation, to his eating a fist during a hallucinatory mushroom trip, the guy is a treasure. Leslie Mann, Apatow’s wife, gets the role of her career as Debbie, and she’s especially wonderful when her character is rejected entrance into a trendy nightclub because she’s too old. This film should be a springboard to bigger roles for the actress.
It’s nice to see a movie where babies aren’t so much a problem but a blessing (credit the recent Waitress for doing much the same thing). It’s clear that Apatow looks at the whole baby process with a loving eye and much warmth. To his credit, he doesn’t shy away from the difficulties that can arise from unexpected pregnancy. He just focuses more on the rewards that can come out of such situations, and that’s actually quite refreshing.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Virgin when I first saw it, but I’ve grown to love it with repeat viewings. That’s not the case with Knocked Up. I loved this movie 10 minutes in, I loved it for the duration, and I love it as I sit here talking about it. Damn, I’m curious to see what Apatow attempts after this one.