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"A highly scathing jolt of relationship reality."
 
"Missed opportunities to explore and explain why the career minded Alison chose to keep the baby."
"Creates moments that are laughable, sentimental, and oftentimes, painfully true."
Knocked Up  

Cast

Ben Stone: Seth Rogen
Alison Scott: Katherine Heigl
Debbie: Leslie Mann
Pete: Paul Rudd
Dr. Pellagrino: Tim Bagley
Review June 2007

Written and directed by Judd Apatow, creator of the "40 Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up," is a crude and somewhat sentimental romantic comedy about the residuals of unplanned pregnancy. When an underachieving slob named Ben meets an overachieving professional named Alison, sparks fly, and uncontrollable passion erupts during one glorious night. One glorious night of unprotected sex that forever changes their lives. Over the years, there have been many films about relationship mishaps, accidental pregnancies, and the attraction of opposites. And this film follows the tried and true formula - boy meets girl, boy screws up with girl, boy tries to make right. Yet, what makes "Knocked Up" stand out is the way Apatow carefully balances sincerity with obscenity, tenderness with vulgarity. Hilarity ensues, the result of an unadulterated, unfiltered, go for broke mentality. The kind that makes "Knocked Up" a highly scathing jolt of relationship reality.

Alison Scott is a responsible, career-minded 24-year-old entertainment journalist for E! while Ben Stone is an irresponsible, going nowhere 23-year-old living off the remaining insurance money he received when a Canadian postal worker nearly ran him over. With modest success, Alison still lives in the pool house behind her sister Debbie's home, helping her sister and her sister's husband Pete raise their daughters. And Ben, living in a flophouse with his lazy friends, works to establish a website, fleshofthestars.com, that depicts the precise moments when famous actresses reveal their flesh. As luck would have it, the two wind up at the same club on the same night. And after much drinking, wind up in bed together.

The next morning, Ben awakens self assured and confident while Alison is disappointed and disgusted. An awkward breakfast encounter with Debbie, Pete, and the children reinforces the oddball pairing as the two quickly go their separate ways, trying to put the one night stand behind them. Eight weeks later, however, they reconnect as Alison discovers that she is pregnant and reaches out to Ben, informing him of her plans to keep the baby. Shocked and angry at first, Ben is reluctant to provide support. But soon, owns up to his responsibilities, shopping for baby clothes and books and taking Alison to the OB/GYN. He even tries to propose. But as in real life, things aren't always that simple. As frustrations and fears surmount, Ben realizes his future lies at a crossroads - between the carefree lifestyle of slackerville and the responsible mantle of fatherhood.

Over the years, Judd Apatow has gained a reputation for being a filmmaker and comedian ahead of his time. Brilliant shows such as "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared," depicting the funny and tender moments of life's less popular cliques, were cancelled long before they had time to build audiences. And the devilishly dark and satirical Jim Carrey films, "The Cable Guy" and "Fun with Dick and Jane," failed to gain momentum at the box office, only to be appreciated at second glance on DVD. One could even argue that "Anchorman" had the same late appeal; however, it was "Anchorman" that provided a turning point for Apatow, introducing him to his "40 Year-Old Virgin" collaborator, Steve Carell.

At the heart of every Apatow film is a character who would in any other circumstance, be forgotten in the background, kept away from the limelight. Societal misfits, if you will. In the "40 Year-Old Virgin," Steve Carell's Andy Stitzer emerged from nerdy recluse to self-confident ladies man. And in "Knocked Up," the same can be said for Seth Rogen's Ben Stone, an unmotivated, atypical leading young man who becomes motivated to become a better person, a better husband, and a better father. It's the kind of fish out of water approach that is rife with personal conflict and awkward situational comedy, from the time Ben and Alison first make love to their fight on the way to the OB/GYN to the delivery room and arrival of the baby itself.

"Knocked Up" is a proverbial grab bag, a mixture of goofy guy and chick flick elements. There's the bawdy bathroom humor found spewing out of the men in every other scene and the sappy sentiment sprinkled in as when Ben proposes to Alison with an empty box and a well intended promise. Throughout, there are many laughs and lampoons, especially that of an off camera Ryan Seacrest upset over a tardy interviewee and a rival journalist, Kristen Wiig, quietly undermining Alison's every move at E! Headquarters. Not to mention plenty of pop culture hysterics, from "Star Wars" to "Lost" to "Spider-Man" to keep you on your toes.

Confesses Pete, "Marriage is like a tense, unfunny version of 'Everybody Loves Raymond,' only it doesn't last 22 minutes. It lasts forever." Such is the bitter reality that lies at the center of "Knocked Up," a film that through all the silliness and slouching, really has something to say. In fact, it's what differentiates it from other mindless fare. You see, while Ben and Alison work through their sophomoric situation, in contrast, the real heavy lifting occurs between Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd's characters, spouses who have fallen so far into marriage despair that they engage in true to life bickering over the mortgage, the children, and each other's habits. To the point where communication breaks down and jealousy and distrust rear their ugly heads.

Occasionally, however, the film has a tendency to drift, as Pete and Ben make an impromptu visit to Las Vegas to see Cirque du Soleil and talk about the variety and colors of hotel chairs. Or Alison and Debbie attempt a girl's night out by club hopping only to be crassly turned away. Even the baby's delivery itself seems a bit long in the tooth. Such diversions seem less important in the grand scheme of things when considering the missed opportunities to explore and explain why the career minded Alison chose to keep the baby in the first place or why she decided to stay with Ben in spite of his extreme perversion and idleness. An unlikely pairing that defies reason.

Yet, somehow, Judd Apatow pulls it off. "Knocked Up" defies reason and logic. It boisterously offends and politically desensitizes with layers upon layers of jokes, bong references, and foul language. And still, manages to create empathetic characters, situations, and moments that are laughable, sentimental, and oftentimes, painfully true. The fantasy baseball escape, the girl's rejection at the dance club, the discovery of an unplanned pregnancy. Apatow makes it clear in a humorous way that life is never simple. Wrote Bruce Lansky, noted humorist and poet, "Parenthood is a lot easier to get into than out of." And for Ben and Alison, the rocky road of parenthood has only just begun.



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