Knocked Up (2007)

13 Apr

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Knocked Up” is a miracle—a romantic comedy that is a clear definition of the phrase. The romance is interesting, the characters are endearing, and last but most definitely not least, it’s freaking hilarious. A sitcom-type love story is covered by dirty humor and a sharp wit, but it’s not mean-spirited, not entirely crude, and is honest in its subject matter. As a result, it’s sweet and funny without transcending to standard romantic comedy clichés.

“Knocked Up” is Judd Apatow’s second outing as a writer/director after 2005’s other great romantic comedy “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Apatow has produced many other works, such as the underrated short-lived TV show “Freaks and Geeks,” and has a thing for taking unique characters and surrounding them with ribald humor. That’s pretty much what “Knocked Up” will be remembered for.

The two characters that are subject to the plot are Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) and Allison Scott (Katherine Heigl). Both are almost entirely different from each other. Ben is a pudgy, laid-back 23-year-old slacker/stoner who does nothing but hang out with his buddies and get stoned. Allison is a tall, blonde, attractive woman with a sunny personality and a hint of professionalism that gets her a promotion for the E! Entertainment channel. While celebrating her promotion, Allison meets Ben at a club and share a drunken one-night stand.

Eight weeks later, Ben and Allison haven’t spoken (Allison declares the whole thing a mistake after finding out more about Ben), but Allison experiences morning sickness…that’s right. She’s pregnant. Ben’s the father, so Allison decides to get in contact with him. First there’s uncertainty and then a brief talk about abortion, but Allison decides to keep the baby and Ben decides to support her.

So, Allison and Ben are roped into this weird situation and must get to know one another more in order to stand each other. But what makes this relationship nice is that they’re willing to stand each other and try something new. The problem is, it’s easier said than done. It’s like how Ben realizes that he shouldn’t smoke pot if he’s supposed to be this responsible adult now—he knows he should stop, but does he want to stop? And so, this relationship between Ben and Allison has ups and downs.

The relationship is at the heart of the story. I was surprised to realize just how touched I was by the amount of romance in a movie that is nearly scattered with laughs. It’s touching, how the movie chronicles the efforts of these two opposites to get along perfectly. These are two people who want to fall in love and try not to force themselves into doing so, but to let it flow if they find their own similarities.

Ben’s a likable schmoe, despite his status as a loser—he’s very charismatic and well-played by Seth Rogen. Allison is attractive, energetic, and appealing and is not just a comic foil for Ben—she’s a fully-realized character. As played by Katherine Heigl, sometimes she’s funny, but she’s always convincing.

There are also a lot of funny supporting characters to watch in “Knocked Up,” played gamely by charismatic actors. There’s Allison’s older sister Debbie (Leslie Mann, Judd Apatow’s wife) who has an acid tongue, a need to control things (but also a need to cling to her youth), and some of the more memorable moments in the movie. The always wonderful character actor Paul Rudd plays Debbie’s stressful husband Pete—Rudd delivers his lines as if he doesn’t even know he’s funny. (I love his speech about how marriage is a long episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”) There are also Debbie and Pete’s two adorable daughters (played by Apatow’s and Mann’s actual daughters), Allison’s gynecologist who disappears at the worst time imagined, Ben’s supportive father (Harold Ramis) who is not the best person to support anybody, and Ben’s less ambitious slacker buddies (played by Jason Segel, Martin Starr, Jonah Hill, and Jay Baruchel, each keeping their first names for the movie) including one (played by Starr) who grows a beard long enough for the others to make fun of him (“Your face looks like Robin Williams’ knuckles,” for example).

(It’s because of that guy that I shave once a week!)

Amidst the unforced sweetness of the story, “Knocked Up” is straight-up funny! There are so many perfectly delivered one-liners, sharply written dialogue, impeccable comic timing, and public related (and media related) humor. What I mean by that last one is the way the movie uses celebrity cameos (who show up for E! in the movie) is brave and inspired, particularly with Ryan Seacrest’s self-parody. Period. I can’t spoil any jokes; I don’t even know if I can get away with referencing the setups. But trust me when I say there are plenty of laughs in this movie.

What I was wasn’t too crazy about was the climax of the movie, which is possibly the longest delivery room sequence ever put in a movie. There are laughs, to be sure, and the romance pays off, as well as the story. But I feel like most of what was being shown was just padding to build the tension.

What leads up to it, however, is a remarkably funny and sweet romantic comedy that is edgy, joyful, and hard-R-rated (be warned). And I hope that if I ever go to Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas while on ‘shrooms, I hope Paul Rudd is sitting next to me.

Oh, crap. I referenced a setup. Deal with it. Go watch “Knocked Up!”

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