Delivers big on smart and edgy humor
reviewed by Mark Burns
An accidental conception binds slob to throb in this smart and funny date movie.
Ben (Seth Rogen, 40 Year Old Virgin) is a frequently stoned slacker. Alison (Katherine Heigl, Grey’s Anatomy) is a crisp and comely young professional. Chance introduces them at a local club, and they’re off on a buzz tryst; eight weeks later Alison is beset by realization of gestation. So the mismatched pair are thrown into the scary territory of accidental parenthood, trying to find harmony as a couple even as they wrestle with new responsibility.
The story takes a balanced perspective, equal parts Ben and Alison. He, barely responsible for himself, aspires to Alison’s level and struggles to discover what is expected of him so he has a clue. Alison tries to find the heart of her baby’s father, searching for the diamond beneath the stubble and chub, as she evolves through physical and emotional stages. Off to the side, Alison’s sister and brother-in-law contend with a whole different stage of parenthood and married life, their wedded rile complementing the buildup to birth.
True: the storyline is couples; it explores the relationship dynamic under acutely stressful circumstances. But it is not so weenie as Mad About You. Writer/director Judd Apatow (Freaks and Geeks), who returned R-rated comedy to vogue with 40-Year-Old Virgin, uses his keen comic sense to blend sincere humor and natural portrayals with crude, even base, behavior. (Paul Reiser never popped shrooms at a Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas.) There is humor and drama among the relationships, but sharp tongues and a stoner-cad dynamic among the dudes lends sharp comic edge to the tale. It’s an effective marriage, birthing a tone ringing true to the duality of comedies such as Wedding Crashers and The Break-Up.
While similar, this film is stronger than others of its fare. Where Wedding Crashers weighted the end with deadening sentiment, Knocked Up carries a consistent mix all the way through. The Break-Up allowed the women to hog emotionality and the men to hog humor. Here the split’s more even, particularly with sister Debbie (Leslie Mann, George of the Jungle) and brother-in-law Pete (Paul Rudd, 40-Year-Old Virgin) getting in some real scene-stealers, both comic and dramatic.
There’s nothing fancy about the presentation. The film is visually straightforward and devoid of over-the-top slapstick, relying on story and character. This works well, as the sharply written dialogue snares attention with its authentic feel and snappy delivery, while taking full advantage of the awkward in typical Apatow fashion. At times the movie even reminds a little of Albert Brooks. It makes for a multifaceted tale, a bit deeper in character and more mature than 40-Year-Old Virgin.
This film does tend to get heavy on its heels later into the pregnancy, but punctuations of humor prevent it from losing its fun. In the end, Knocked Up delivers big on smart and edgy humor. Apatow fans in particular should be delighted.
Great comedy • R • 129 mins.