Dir: Judd Apatow
Starring: Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann
Run. Time: 129mins
Knocked Up is the latest film from Judd Apatow and company, who have been involved in some way with some of the most successful comedies in recent years, such as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and The 40 Year Old Virgin, which he co-write and directed. He assumes the same duties in Knocked Up. It follows what lies in the wake of an unexpected pregnancy between Ben (Seth Rogen), a slacker and illegal Canadian immigrant and Allison (Katherine Heigl) a successful woman involved in the entertainment industry. It plots how their relationship develops from their initial one-night stand and explores married life through the family of Allison’s sister Debbie (Leslie Mann), her husband Pete (Paul Rudd) and their two daughters.
Knocked Up is a rare film that finds a real balance between comedy that is often crass and base and some truly serious and insightful observations on its subject matter. I found the film absolutely hilarious. Not every joke quite hits the mark but it never draws out any of the misses and has a belly laugh moment every couple of minutes. The humour ranges from purely gross-out comedy to physical comedy to often improvised character interactions. I particularly enjoyed some of the dialogue between Ben and Pete because for the first time on film I heard conversations that I’ve had in real life. This was due to the high referential content of their exchanges and I really enjoyed. There are also a couple of fantastically awkward sex scenes which always endear me to a film because all of the intense, romantic ones from most films are complete fictions and I enjoy a more honest portrayal of the act given such importance in our western culture. If all you want is a strong comedy then Knocked Up is more than up to the challenge provided your sensibilities aren’t of the more delicate variety. Some of the film is very rude and at least once particularly explicit and there’s plenty of swearing.
Knocked Up, however, has so much more to offer than a few laughs. The four principal characters are all fully realised human beings and there is some genuine character development throughout the entire film. We see Ben realise how his life is going to change due to this new responsibility, Allison learns something about herself and the married couple have to take a serious look at their relationship and its problems, seemingly illuminated by watching Ben and Allison struggle, along with examining themselves. I found all of the character play completely believable and often very touching, particularly the scenes between Ben and Pete. Based on his own experience I think Apatow gives a charming account of pregnancy and the pressures it brings to the mother and those around her. In fact this aspect of the film is so strong that I would argue that Knocked Up is not, at its most fundamental level, a comedy. It’s a character-driven drama with some hugely comedic elements.
The four principal performances are very strong with the mostly comedic actors showing that they have the ability to create sympathetic and flawed, real people. Katherine Heigl, known mostly for Grey’s Anatomy, was pleasantly surprising here giving both a strong and funny performance. The supporting cast (Ben’s slacker friends) are played mostly for laughs and are actually very funny. They’re all friends in real life and this translates to a tangible chemistry on-screen. The different gynaecologists they visit are also very amusing and Alan Tudyk and Kristen Wiig are very funny as Allison’s co-workers in what are probably the film’s oddest sequences.
Most of the other films from Apatow and crew are much more popular among the male audience but Knocked Up has enough for both sexes. I went to see this with my girlfriend and she sided with the women on almost every issue despite the fact that I thought they were being insane. Apparently it’s not about the women being insane, what you have to judge is whether are not the men are sufficiently understanding…I’d recommend seeing it with a member of the opposite sex.
In Brief: A triumph in comedy and character study, Knocked Up provides plenty of laughs and insightful commentary. Highly Recommended.
Originally posted Sunday, 23 September 2007.