Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Knocked Up

Judd Apatow rules. As far as I’ve seen, he hasn’t taken a wrong step. The Ben Stiller Show, which he wrote for and co-created, was great, if short-lived. Freaks and Geeks remains one of my favorite shows, despite the fact that it was egregiously overlooked. I haven’t seen Undeclared, but I hear it’s excellent. Then there is The 40-Years Old Virgin, a hilarious movie with a supremely positive message, which is a feat nigh-unachievable by a comedy. And finally, there is Knocked Up, which Apatow again hits out of the park. The secret to Apatow’s success is his approach; he combines the bawdy, raunchy and crude with the uplifting, positive, and life-affirming. His movies have messages that my parents would thoroughly enjoy, but content (including foul language, nudity, and the uncommented use of illegal drugs) that they absolutely would not. It’s a shame that those things will stop certain people from seeing a movie that, unlike so many other movies, is actually beneficial to the world at large.

Knocked Up’s main character is Ben (Seth Rogan), a 23-year old loser who doesn’t have a job, smokes a lot of pot, and is trying to start a website with his four loser roommates. Simultaneously, there is Allison (Katherine Heigl), responsible and smokin’ hot AP for the E! channel. She gets a promotion to on-screen personality, and goes to a club with her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) to celebrate, where she meets Ben. After imbibing copious amounts of alcohol, they have sex. Ben doesn’t use a condom, and nature takes its course. Allison only realizes what happened eight weeks later, when it’s too late.

Actually, it’s not, as Allison’s mother points out. The A word is presented as an option to both characters, and they both reject it. This simple thing is what makes the movie so great and amazing, and elevates it above “funny movie.” If abortion weren’t talked about as an idea, and then rejected, this movie would have no reason to exist. That it was made my rating of this movie go up about 10 points. It's what makes me call this movie "life-affirming." Ben and Allison have their ups and downs, then their way-downs, and then their daughter is born, and the movie ends on a way-up for them. Knocked Up is very vulgar and crude, but also very honest in its approach. Rather than gloss over the bad things in life, and deny that people like Ben and his roommates exist, it revels in the comedy of the fact that they do exist.

Judd Apatow is one of those directors who likes to use the same people in all his movies. Nearly everyone in Knocked Up is also in Freaks and Geeks, The 40-Year Old Virgin, Undeclared, Superbad, or a combination of those. Since I’ve seen most things Apatow has done, I have a sense of familiarity with these actors, so I can buy into their characters without much difficulty. I feel the movie could have been more lean and focused had some of the subplots been excised, like the one about Martin’s beard or Debbie’s realization that she is, in fact, old. On the other hand, the subplot about Debbie and her husband Pete’s marital problems was important to Allison’s doubts about (insert spoiler here). On the other other hand, a deleted scene about Ben trying to present another idea about the website to his roommates was important to Ben’s (insert ‘nutha spoiler here). So I guess it balances out.

The roommates (Jason Segal, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, and Martin Starr, all using their first names) are the funniest thing about this movie, so funny it hurts. Seth Rogan demonstrates great range and ability with Ben, who was so natural and real. Apatow newcomer Katherine Heigl is a lot more than just a pretty face, but the face (and rest of her) was quite a distraction. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are believable as a struggling married couple. There are also great cameos from Firefly alum Alan Tudyk and SNL alum Kristen Wiig as good cop/bad cop TV people, and also from Steve Carell as himself.

Knocked Up is a solid addition to Apatow’s filmography, and I can’t find a lot wrong with it. For a comedy, it has surprisingly few laughs, mostly at the expense of minor characters, and the meat of the movie isn’t all that funny. That’s definitely not a problem, though. It’s a little more serious that Virgin, and less sweet, but presents a more applicable message. Apatow is a rare talent, because he presents values we can all agree with in a forum we can all relate to, whether or not we like to admit it.

Iconic Lines:
“Don’t let the door hit you in the vagina on your way out.”
“Marriage is a tense, unfunny version of Everybody Loves Raymond, only it doesn’t last 22 minutes; it lasts forever.”
“If any of us get laid tonight, it’s because of Eric Bana in Munich."

22 Rating: 16

Particle Man


Dr. Worm said...

I went back and glanced at your 40 Year Old Virgin review, and I take it your tastes have evolved since then. Virgin got a 0 for a rating back in 2006, but I'm guessing from this review that it would get a higher rating now.

My questions, then: What rating would you give Virgin now, and how do you see the two films stacking up?

Particle Man said...

i would give Virgin a 17 now. i recently bought it, and had a weird experience. all the crudity and baseness involved in that movie that used to make cringe, made me laugh instead. granted, it made me laugh before, but i felt guilty about laughing at it. in a year and a half, i have gotten less uptight, and more accepting of things i don't agree with. for instance, i may not smoke pot, but i can definitely appreciate and get into Seth Rogan's character in Virgin (and Knocked Up, for that matter). i don't think i was able to before, or at least not completely. my high rating of Virgin has to do with my deep appreciation of its theme and message, and that remains the same from my review.

your second question is very interesting. Virgin is funnier, but Knocked Up is more real. they stack up pretty evenly, but they have different purposes. the moral of Virgin is "sex is precious, and should be treated as such." the moral of Knocked Up is "the creation of life is the most amazing thing in the world, and its goodness has no regard for human boundaries." both are incredibly valuable, but that of Virgin is more applicable to my current life situation, so i like it more; but just a little.