Knocked Up
directed by Judd Apatow
(Universal, 2007)

Writer/director/genius Judd Apatow follows up his critically acclaimed box-office success The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) with, surprise surprise, a critically acclaimed box-office success in this year's Knocked Up.

Similarities between the two are quite clear. They both center on a character who doesn't typically shine in the spotlight: Virgin's Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) is a downright loser without social skills to save his life, while Knocked Up's Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) is an unemployed, and unemployable, pothead who hopes someday to run a nude celebrity website with his slacker roommates. Yet both characters stand front and center in their respective films, with audiences rooting for unlikely, but likable outcasts to get the more beautiful, and socially accepted, girl.

Rogen, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann again land roles in this one, giving Knocked Up an almost comfortable feel, adding to the Apatow experience he has begun to create. And while Virgin dealt with first impressions, first dates and merely having sex, Knocked Up is the logical next step in a little thing called love: the realities (and consequences) of having a baby.

In the end, though, Knocked Up is the better film, and a worthy successor to a film that made R-rated comedies hip and profitable again.

Like Virgin, Knocked Up's premise is rather simple. Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) is recently promoted to an on-air promotion at the E! Network and, to celebrate, she and her sister, Debbie (Mann), head to a club for a girl's night out. At the same club is Ben, who charms Alison just enough, leading to a drunken night of dancing and unprotected sex. And their drunken hookup would have ended there had Alison not gotten pregnant. She then decides she'll have the baby, and the pair agrees to get to know each other so they can raise the child together.

As for the film, it more than earns its R-rating. Vulgar outbursts are frequent, and at times prolonged. And besides Ben and Alison's sex scenes that become quite commonplace, Apatow ends the film with a gross-out shocker. In Virgin, it was Andy's erection. In Knocked Up, it's the birth of Alison and Ben's baby. You've been warned.

But what matters most in a comedy is, well, the comedy. And without a doubt, Knocked Up made me laugh louder, harder and more frequently than any movie in recent memory. There are one-liners that will make the rounds around the water cooler, and entire scenes that are both outrageous and hysterical (Ben's shroom-infested road trip with Debbie's husband Pete (Rudd) clearly sticks out in the mind).

And like its 2005 predecessor, Apatow creates the perfect balance between crude comedy and believable drama. Both Ben and Alison, and even Debbie and Pete, have their share of troubles throughout the rollercoaster 129-minute run time, but leave it to Apatow to know when to bank on drama and when to pull out a vulgar confrontation. Knocked Up is edgy but sweet, crude but romantic. And quite frankly, it's comedy at its best.

review by
Eric Hughes

28 July 2007

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