Thursday, 27 September 2007
Knocked Up (2007) dir. Judd Apatow
Starring Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann
On DVD this week is the thoroughly satisfying “Knocked Up”. The producer and director of the film, Judd Apatow, is sitting on top of the world right now with two back-to-back comedy successes as director (inc. “40 Year Old Virgin”), and as producer of the surprise comedy hit of the year, “Superbad”. “Knocked Up” is a wild broad comedy that succeeds because it's rooted in the realities we can all relate. It's guaranteed laughs for just about everybody.
As with “40 Year Old Virgin”, many of the same actors appear – Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, and Lesley Mann. Ben Stone is the prototypical party animal - male, underachieving, unemployed, pot-smoking, beer swilling and all around fuck-up. He’s lived the last 5 years off a $14,000 settlement from being run over by a bus. He and his equally inept quartet of male buddies are starting a website which tracks the nude appearances of hot female celebrities on film. One day Ben and his boys are partying at a local club when he meets Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl), a ridiculously hot blonde. The flirtations lead them back to her place, which turns into sloppy drunk sex. Two months later, when Ben has all but forgotten about his one night stand, Alison calls him up to tell him she’s pregnant.
Ben’s singular-minded world in suddenly opened up to real life and he and Alison are forced into a relationship neither thought would go beyond the morning after. Ben does the right thing and supports Alison’s decision to keep the baby, and he actually becomes a solid partner in the pregnancy. Ben quickly falls in love with Alison and decides to make it a go at a real relationship.
Ben is ingratiated into Alison’s family. He bonds with Alison’s brother-in-law, Pete, (Paul Rudd), a father of two and at the seven-year-itch stage of his marriage. Pete and Debbie’s relationship is passionless and tempestuous. The bliss doesn’t last for Alison and Ben and they too encounter relationship troubles. Are Ben and Alison are destined for a life like Pete and Debbie?
The elements of comedy in the film are simple. Dating and pregnancy are fuel for tried and tested comedy situations, but it’s the unlikely comedic talent of Seth Rogen that holds the film together. ‘Funny’ often starts with the look, and Rogen looks the part. His chubby physique and rugged curly locks lends credibility to his character – in other words, he looks like a pot-smoking beer-swilling freeloader. But he also has great comic timing and a dozens of priceless one-liner gags.
Like last year’s “The Break Up”, the film brings the comedy out of a credible real-life situation. And like “The Break Up” the film is heavily weighted to the male-centric perspective. I think it was Rogen’s impression of Doug Quaid from “Total Recall”, ‘Cohagen, give dem the air” (told with a Schwarzenegger accent) that gave it away. I guarantee not a female in the audience got that joke. But don’t count out the talents of the ladies. Kristin Wiig translates her nervous insecure character from SNL to her role as an E! executive who reluctantly gives Alison the job of on-screen host. Her scenes are a stand out. But funny is funny, laughter is universal and the film will play over broad audiences. The film will be even more successful on DVD.
Judd Apatow has the gold key right now. In addition to "40 Year Old Virgin" and “Superbad” he’s also responsible for the hidden gem TV series “Freaks and Geeks”, and “Undeclared” an Emmy Winner from “Da Ali G Show”, producer of “Anchorman”, “Talladega Nights”, “The Cable Guy” and more. I guess to sum him up he’s mastered the ‘Cinema of Loserdom’, but other than Donald Trump, who doesn’t love a loser? Enjoy.