Back in my retail days, I had a regular customer who was, as some might say, “smokin’!” She was in Katherine Heigl’s league for looks and smarts, while her husband made Seth Rogen look like Matt Damon [she said she fell for him because he made her laugh…]. So I know exactly how much reality lurks beneath the surface of [i]Knocked Up!’s[/i] fusion of puerile humor and romance.
When Allison Scott [Katherine Heigl] gets a promotion to on-air interviewer at E!, her sister Debbie [Leslie Mann] decides to take her out to celebrate. At a club [where they’ve been let in ahead of a bunch of people – including a certain chubby, curly-haired goof – because Allison is hot] Allison gets a couple of beers courtesy of a smooth move by the aforementioned stoner goof, Ben Stone [Seth Rogen] and, when Debbie has to leave early because of her kids, she and Ben get to know each other a lot better. Eight weeks later, Allison discovers she’s pregnant…
Essentially, the film deals with Allison’s efforts to bond with her baby’s father, while giving us a look at her sister’s marriage to Peter [Paul Rudd]. Peter and Debbie have a marriage in which Debbie tries to train Peter [something she suggests that Allison do with Ben]. Ben, who is not a control freak like Debbie, plays along – though they have their fights. In spite of their problems, Peter and Debbie’s kids have somehow managed to be pretty much normal.
After learning that he is the father of Allison’s baby, Ben decides that he’s on board and makes a valiant effort to figure out the whole responsibility thing – failing spectacularly when he doesn’t read any of the dozen baby books they’ve purchased together [and she finds out]! Their blowout fight causes a breakup, with Allison and Debbie trying to go out partying and Ben and Peter [who’s also been thrown out of the house – because he wasn’t cheating!] head off to Vegas to catch Cirque Du Soleil whilst under the influence of mushrooms…
Why is [i]Knocked Up[/i] so good? Because Apatow understands that relationships aren’t just about the big events – the small stuff is what really matters most. Here, the fights over big stuff are played for comedic effect, while the fights over trivial poop are the ones that get the dramatic treatment [bear in mind that more spousal murders are committed over snoring, nose hair in the sink and failure to help with the dishes than over cheating]…
While both Peter and Ben realize that they’re screwing up situations that others would kill to be in – Debbie finds that her attempts at training Peter aren’t conducive to a happy marriage – Allison somehow doesn’t get that Ben is really the right guy for her. At the same time, Ben takes charge of his life. He dumps his dope-smoking and celebrity nude website idea and gets a real job. He gets his own place, reads the baby books – and puts in a nursery.
Subplots involving Allison not telling her bosses at E! that she’s pregnant, and the various antics of Ben’s stoner roommates provide some terrific moments, but they are in support of the evolution of the main characters. As such, they add to the film’s forward momentum in frequently odd ways [when Allison meets Ben’s roomies, for example…].
As with [i]The 40-Year Old Virgin[/i], Apatow has a knack for finding that sweet spot where bathroom humor, romance and dramatic truth hit a crossroads. His ability to fuse such disparate elements together is unparalleled – as when the panicked Allison calls him because her gynecologist has decided to go out of town for a bar mitzvah rather than keep his promise to be there for her when the time comes.
Again, as with Virgin, Apatow doesn’t go in for any really cinematic tricks. His shots are as stripped to the bone as is required to tell the story. Not a frame is wasted – even though [i]Knocked Up[/i] is over two hours long. When I came out of the theater, I felt happy and energized – feelings that are usually generated by a good, adrenaline pumping blockbuster. That an R-rated romantic comedy – with a tone – of rude humor – could generate that response says a lot about Apatow’s ability to entertain.
[b]Final Grade: A[/b]
EM Review Posted by Sheldon A. Wiebe
Originally Posted 06/03/07