The boys behind The 40-Year-Old Virgin are back
BY JASON BLAIR
KNOCKED UP: Written and directed by Judd Apatow. Cinematography, Eric Alan Edwards. Music by Joe Henry and Loudon Wainwright III. Starring Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann. Universal Pictures, 2007. R. 129 minutes.
|Alison (Katherine Heigl) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) consider the future in Knocked Up|
Fans of Judd Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin finally have something to celebrate. Rumored for years to be the funniest man in Hollywood, Apatow is arguably its hardest-working comic, having written for Freaks and Geeks and The Larry Sanders Show, produced The Cable Guy and Talladega Nights and acted in NewsRadio and Anchorman. Like God or WMD, Apatow has been everywhere and nowhere, a situation he intended to remedy when The 40-Year-Old Virgin — his directorial debut — was released in 2005. But after a lengthy and persuasive marketing campaign (and what may be the greatest promotional poster of all time), The 40-Year-Old Virgin didn’t deliver. Instead, it was a sloppy and sometimes mean-spirited affair with all the polish of improvised sketch comedy. Knocked Up, Apatow’s second film, doesn’t make the same mistake, which should bring Apatow the credit he deserves.
In Knocked Up, gorgeous Alison (Katherine Heigl) has just landed a job at the E! network, which puts her well beyond the reach of dumpy Ben (Seth Rogen), an unemployed stoner who’s developing a porn website. But just as nature abhors a vacuum, so Hollywood detests a romance between equals, and so it is that Alison takes Ben home for the night after a few too many cocktails. The next morning, Ben is elated; as far as he’s concerned, he just won the lottery. Alison, on the other hand, can’t hide her disappointment, nor can Debbie (Leslie Mann), Alison’s uptight sister, and Pete (Paul Rudd), Debbie’s easygoing husband. So they all chalk it up to youthful indiscretion and go on with their former lives, until Alison contracts a deadly vomiting virus or — more impossibly — she happens to be pregnant.
Knocked Up probably sounds like your typically raunchy comedy, which in many ways it is. But compared to, say, Blades of Glory, Knocked Up is a revelation. That’s because Apatow’s screenplay doesn’t settle for innuendo, insults and ignorance, which are what pass for jokes in most comedies today. If comedies are mountains, these elements are the equivalent of base camp; Apatow uses them as starting-off points before setting out for higher elevation. Knocked Up is gross and sometimes offensive, to be sure. The title alone reveals that much. But it’s also a sharp and highly verbal movie that still manages to be sweet. We actually care about what happens to Ben and Pete when, late in the second act, they’re jettisoned by Alison and Debbie. Distraught, the men do what men do to survive: They go to Vegas and eat magic mushrooms.
Knocked Up is far from perfect. The endorsement deals are ridiculously conspicuous, including three references to a film in theaters as we speak. (That kind of cross-film promotion is a first, and the egregiousness of it really bothers me.) The last third of Knocked Up lags a little as it tries to tie up loose ends. But there are more than enough indelible moments before this, including pregnant sex, the Vegas trip mentioned above and a profanity-laced tirade from the mouth of Ryan Seacrest. In fact, the first two-thirds of Knocked Up is so funny that it serves as an unintended rebuke of the films Apatow’s pals have been making for years. If Starsky & Hutch had been half this funny, Ben Stiller wouldn’t have to take jobs like Night at the Museum.