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Review: Knocked Up

Knocked Up
04.02.2007
9 10

There’s that great line in THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN where Seth Rogen’s character tells Steve Carrell to punch a girl, and when he protests Rogen says “No, you punch her in her f*cking head emotionally.” I can’t think of a better way to describe KNOCKED UP (opening wide: June 1st). The movie decks you in the face with its vulgar hilarity, batters your kidneys with some old fashioned situational comedy, slaps you with its witty, pop-culture laced dialogue…and when it’s all over, you realize that you’ve just had your ass kicked, not only by the funny, but by all the sweet and honest emotions too.

Much like VIRGIN, the title pretty much sums up the plot. Rogen plays Ben, an unemployed slacker living with his stoner friends. Katherine Heigl is Alison, an up and coming reporter for the E! Channel who lives in domestica with her sister’s family. The unlikely pair meet at a club, get pro-nasty drunk and impregnation ensues. The rest of the movie deals with Ben and Alison as they try to make a go for it while their two very different worlds begin to clash.

In case my opening metaphor was lost on you, KNOCKED UP is fantastic. But who gets credit for its success? Obviously writer-director-genius Judd Apatow deserves a good portion of it for playing creative ringleader to the unbridled comic forces assembled here, but more importantly for making sure all the funny stays grounded in realism and the story at the heart of the movie. Next on the list is Seth Rogen who steps up to a role tailor-made for him, one where he’s even funnier and more likable than in 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN. Ben is thrust in over his head constantly and Rogen’s reactions are constant slices of fried gold. Just the fact that Rogen is the lead in a major summer comedy is a glimmer of hope in an otherwise hopeless entertainment industry. (Although the fact that he plays a film-loving dork who hooks up with Katherine Heigl may be giving us too much hope…)

While Rogen has no trouble carrying the film, the supporting cast helps him out and nearly steals the spotlight. Paul Rudd continues to be a ridiculously underrated comic star. (Apatow should center his next movie around him. Hint hint…) As the family man stuck in a hellish marriage, he represents the “dark side” Ben finds himself closer to joining, and the chemistry as the two characters become friends just feels natural and hilarious—the scene where Rogen and Rudd trip on shrooms in Vegas was one of two parts in the movie where I actually stopped breathing I was laughing so hard. However, Ben’s roommates, comprised of alumni from Apatow’s Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, are the biggest surprise. I don’t want to spoil a second of their all too short screentime, except to say Jonah Hill’s line about a “stuffed animal” was the other spot where my respiratory functions ceased.

The reason I’m highlighting the performances so much is that I’m blown away with how perfect and real the characters felt. The chemistry between the actors was one of VIRGIN’S strengths and it’s even better in KNOCKED UP, in a situation that’s overall more relatable. The way Ben and Alison respond to their problems or the very funny way the friends interact with each other is the reason why it’s unbelievably easy to connect to the characters. I’m positive I’ve had conversations with my friends word for word like Ben and his roommates. (The “You know how I know you’re gay?” exchange gets a quick and glorious throwback.) And I’m not married nor father to any children, but the representation of marriage and domestic life seems almost disturbingly honest. When Paul Rudd’s character comes to a self-realization about his life, albeit while high out of his mind in his favorite hotel chair, it’s the perfect balance of comedy and maturity. This is the reason why KNOCKED UP can be so adult (“dirty”), yet so adult (“mature”).

The “on the fly” style of the film also deserves a mention, and is probably the source of the movie’s aforementioned powers. Is it obvious when the characters stop and adlib for a minute or two? Sure, but that’s what makes KNOCKED UP so genuine and convincing, not to mention it leads to some of the dirtiest and funniest stuff. I know Apatow shoots hours of alternate takes and I would have no problems watching every minute of it. Despite being over two hours, the movie still flies by and isn’t hurt by its length.

The only part of KNOCKED UP that could be considered a “weak” link is Katherine Heigl. Heigl does more than fine with the role she’s given and she gets her fair share of laughs as Alison. You just don’t get that carefree and fun “adlibbing” vibe from her and it sticks out when she’s in scenes where other characters play off with each other. It could just be the character herself is more serious (and maybe having a comic performer in every role would be overload) but I thought someone like Leslie Mann, who seemed to keep up with comedy no problem, might’ve been a better fit.

If you liked THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN I guarantee you’ll enjoy the hell out of KNOCKED UP. In some ways it’s more grown-up than its predecessor, but it manages to maintain all of the fun, energy and laughs in the process. If I had to give a quote for the poster, it would be “KNOCKED UP is an uproarious and raunchy comedy that has a heart as big as its balls.” Thank you, Judd Apatow.

9/10 -- by Jason Adams

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Extra Tidbit: How’s this for realism? While starting out in Hollywood, Seth Rogen actually lived with a number of the actors who play his roommates in the movie. Also, Leslie Mann who plays Paul Rudd’s wife is Judd Apatow’s wife in real life, and Rudd and Mann’s kids in the movie… Apatow and Mann’s real-life children. I wonder why everyone’s chemistry was so good?
Source: JoBlo.com

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