Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Knocked Up

KNOCKED UP (Judd Apatow, 2007)

A one night stand turns into a potentially longer term commitment for Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) and Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) in KNOCKED UP. Ben's scruffy charm and a copious amount of alcohol find the mismatched pair between the sheets late at night and wondering what happened the next morning.

In the light of day they are not a couple anyone would expect to see, something that is immediately apparent to them. Alison's polished appearance and hard work at E! has finally earned her an on-air reporting assignment. The closest thing Ben has to employment is the nude celebrity movie appearances archive he and his stoner friends are developing as a website.

They go their separate ways never expecting to see one another again, but eight weeks later Alison learns that she is pregnant. Ben vows to help her in whatever way he can, so the two try to establish a relationship under the circumstances.

Writer-director Judd Apatow's previous comedy, THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, found humor in the main character's inexperience with dating and sex. With equal measures of raunch and sentimentality, KNOCKED UP explores the minefield of imminent parenthood for two people who don't know each other very well. Both films exaggerate their scenarios for comic effect, perhaps to put audiences at ease for the emotional truths and fears Apatow explores.

Depending on your point of view, KNOCKED UP could just as well be a horror film as a comedy. While Ben and Alison try to make the best of the unplanned pregnancy, terror underlines the situation. Apatow spots the humor in this discomfort, be it visiting the obstetrician (or finding the right one in the first place), being forced to mature, making a lifelong commitment to someone, and figuring out how to prepare for a baby when there's an avalanche of literature to sort through.

Rogen and Heigl's appealing performances anchor the film. Rogen's bear growl of a voice and frizzy mop of curls make him endearing while he consistently fails to provide the kind of support Alison asks of Ben. KNOCKED UP pushes the well-worn movie and TV conception of men as overgrown boys--witness Paul Rudd's funny turn as Alison's brother-in-law in addition to Ben's immaturity--but does so in a more sensitive manner. Heigl's Alison isn't as fully drawn as the male characters, but the actress exhibits her wonderful comic timing to make her pregnant career woman sympathetic and rational.

While Apatow has a good feel for putting familiar and relatable people on screen, he can overdo the coarse language that occasionally seems that it's been inserted for shock value rather than staying true to his characters. His penchant for too much extends to the robust running time--129 minutes, long for a comedy--that allows for some amusing diversions with secondary characters but stretches out the film.

A pregnancy from a one night stand isn't a laughing matter, yet in KNOCKED UP it is. This sweet, funny movie delivers depth not commonly found in comedies. There's an arrival worth celebrating.

Grade: B

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