Knocked up is one of the most creative unoriginal movies ever made. A simple plot summery will sound like a movie we’ve all seen many times. The expecting mother storyline has been a staple of T.V. sitcoms since season 2 of I Love Lucy. What sets Knocked Up apart is the execution, the jokes are funnier, the characters are more likable and the message comes across better than most other movies of its type.
The film centers around two worlds. The world of Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) is that of average suburbia. Alison is a journalist for the “E!” cable network, she makes decent money and is close to her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann). The other world is that of Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) a stoner who lives with four other roommates in a messy house. He has been living of a fourteen thousand dollar check he received a few years prior when a mail truck ran him over and has plans to start a website not unlike Mrskin.com. These two worlds collide when Alison is impregnated by Ben during a drunken one night stand. With the prospect a baby coming along Ben and Alison must get to know one another and get their affairs in order before the child is born.
Knocked Up was directed by Judd Apatow, the exciting new filmmaker who created the cult T.V. show Freaks and Geeks and 2005’s hilarious sleeper hit The 40 Year Old Virgin. Knocked Up is clearly in the same vein as The 40 Year Old Virgin, it’s filled with colorful but realistic and believable characters delivering very funny, profanity laced, dialogue. Unlike The 40 Year Old Virgin, however, Knocked Up has a distinctly feminine half to it. This will likely open up the audience that this will play well to.
The humor style here is well crafted. The film delivers R-rated humor without resorting to the type gross out physical humor many R-rated comedies tend to fall prey too. Rather the film is mercifully free of any lame physical comedy, instead it relies on great dialogue to make laughs, which is great because the film provides great dialogue in droves. The film is also free of absurdism, a form of comedy this reviewer generally can’t stand.
The cast here is mostly excellent. Seth Rogen effectively proves that he can hold a feature film, this feature film anyway. It’s hard to see Rogen becoming a regular comedy star like Steve Carell, but this roll was right for him and he does it well. I doubt Rogen really brings all that much to the roll that another solid frat packer like Vince Vaughn wouldn’t have, but that shouldn’t diminish his success. Katherine Heigl is also great here, she’s in somewhat of a “straight man” roll here which makes her performance a little less noticeable, but she’s still good at what she’s needed to do.
It’s the supporting performances however that really make this work. All of Ben’s slacker friend/roommates are cast perfectly and add tremendously to the humor. Many movies like this focus so heavily on making the main character funny and reserves supporting players to merely being quirky presences that one-liners get bounced off of, here however all of these supporting performances toss just as many funny lines as the lead. Plenty of humor also comes from Alison’s sister Debbie and her dysfunctional marriage to Pete (Paul Rudd).
Knocked Up is filled with unorthodox pop culture references for those in the know. While many lesser movies like Epic Movie drop references to whatever is making the most money at the time, Knocked Up references such relative obscurities as In The Cut, Tombstone, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The film also sports a very decent, very eclectic, soundtrack that features artists and bands as diverse as Sublime, The Scorpions, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
Not all of the movie works perfectly, firstly it warms up for a while before it really gets going, there aren’t nearly as many hard laughs as there should be for the first fifteen to twenty minutes. Conversely, the movie begins to loose some steam towards the end when Alison begins going into labor, we’ve all seen this before, a screaming, swearing, woman in labor deciding whether or not to use painkillers.
Another problematic element is a character named Jodi (Charlyne Yi) who hangs around with Ben’s circle of stoned slackers. She’s a bizarre, inarticulate, seemingly retarded character. All the scenes involving her seem to fall flat.
Despite these problems, as a whole Knocked Up is a lot funnier than most movies coming out of Hollywood. Ultimately it isn’t as good a The 40 Year Old Virgin, there are probably as many laughs, but the laughs in the previous Apatow movie were simply deeper belly laughs. Still The 40 Year Old Virgin isn’t a half bad thing to be second best to.
***1/2 out of four