Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr, Charlyne Yi, Maude Apatow, Joanna Kerns, Harold Ramis, Alan Tudyk, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Ken Jeong
R (for sexual content, drug use and language)
Exploring the delicate question of unwanted pregnancy, Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up brings the viewer along for an often humorous, sometimes questionable trip to the gynecologist.
Exploring the absurdity of any situation has become Apatow’s signature and herein, those qualities are used quite effectively. Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) is out for a drink with his friends where he meets actress Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl). They share a few drinks and end up plastered. When they awake in bed together (an overused filmic cliché if there ever was one), he is jubilant and she is shocked. They part ways only to be brought back together later when Alison discovers she’s pregnant.
Given the opportunity to abort and save her burgeoning career or keep the baby and risk losing everything she’s worked so hard to achieve, Alison takes the difficult path, but not without having to combat personal demons of whether to take Ben as a husband to father the child or go it alone. Ben is surprised at first, but soon grows to like the idea and goes to great lengths to try and make something of their relationship.
Apatow, who both wrote and directed the film, has also become known for his loving portrayal of adult geeks and stoners, those who should know better but don’t seem to want to. He gives them depth that a lot of other writers ignore in favor of stereotyping. He still has a few cardstock characters who hold onto those molds, but his lead is far from your typical drug-using loner.
While the film has some terrific moments, there are also some issues. One of the film’s bigger problems is how little it deals with the idea of abortion, making it a peripheral choice instead of a more commonly selected option. While I respect the choice to give Alison that path, but I question how realistic that is. Alison isn’t always portrayed as a shallow person, but considering the industry she chooses to work in, you would expect more of her friends and co-workers to make the suggestion. Instead, Apatow (who is admitted to being a pro-life supporter) opts to gloss over the decision citing comic necessity as a reason, a reason I don’t entirely support.
However, the largest foible the film faces is its reliance on the trite conceit that lovable losers should fall in love with highly attractive women. Seldom is the reverse employed, for few homely women have ever been given the opportunity to fall in love with handsome men. In addition, it’s seldom two homely individuals being brought together for the sake of narrative, so it perpetuates the convention and makes for some rather uninspired decisions. I know that all geeks have fantasies, but must all of them be fulfilled the same way?
Knocked Up does have many funny moments, largely thanks to Leslie Mann’s astute performance as Alison’s best friend Debbie. While the rest of the cast acquits itself sufficiently with the material, she steps above that and delivers the, albeit standard, catty responses with such vicious glee that you feel the enjoyment she’s taking from the part and it only serves to embellish the story.
There are many choices in life and Knocked Up shows us one of those decisions. Where could the film have gone with any other? There aren’t many places and that’s probably for the best. Putting that issue aside, Apatow’s film is enjoyable for the most part, but there are some deeper and more troublesome problems in the traditional nature of the film given Apatow’s non-traditional style.
September 19, 2008