Knocking over summer movie expectations

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Main actors sitting looking uncomfortable

Knocked Up
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Starring: Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigel, Leslie Mann, Paul Rudd

4 stars

Forget pirates who wish they were Keith Richards, ogres with thick Scottish accents, and superheroes who’ve decided to bring the goth look back for the summer. Enough of the disappointing sequels. This season is all about one thing: pregnancy.

Knocked Up, the latest product from Judd Apatow, is one of the funniest movies so far this year. Aided by a strong cast, a clever script, and dipping between obscene humour and brutally honest depictions of human relationships, Apatow crafts a hilarious follow-up to the 2005 sleeper hit, The 40 Year Old Virgin.

Knocked Up chronicles the accidental pregnancy of entertainment reporter Allison Scott (Katherine Heigel), whose promotion to an on-air personality leads to a night of partying and a one-night stand with 20-something slacker Ben Stone (Seth Rogen).

Riding out the last of some wrongful injury lawsuit money, Ben is content to goof off with his housemates, played by former Apatow alumni Jonah Hill, Jason Segal, and Jay Baruchel.

Life for Allison and Ben comes crashing down when a miscommunication over a condom leads to Allison’s pregnancy. Twenty-five pregnancy tests later, Allison has to face the fact that she’s pregnant and her job could be on the line. Meanwhile, Ben must face his growing responsibility and the fact that he might not be able to survive on proceeds from his upcoming website, fleshofthestars.com.

What makes Knocked Up work is its balance of honest characters and real situations alongside the cast’s obscene bursts of humour. You could say it’s like real life, but better. Nobody’s friends are consistently this funny or ridiculous; have you ever tried boxing when the gloves were on fire?

Heigel and Rogen play off each other well, even if Rogen seems to simply be playing his usual self. Their confrontations can be touching, or at times brutal. Nobody likes being kicked out of a car on the freeway or harassed during a doctor’s appointment.

Characters have always been Apatow’s strength; even the smallest roles in Knocked Up feature fully formed characters. Apatow’s ability to pin down the idiosyncracies of everyday people allows for a less obvious and much deeper brand of comedy.

Apatow also doesn’t forget his friends. Featuring numerous Undeclared and Freaks and Geeks alumni, Knocked Up is packed with guest appearences, including Ryan Seacrest throwing a hissy fit, and Steve Carell dealing awkwardly with his growing celebrity.

One of the stand out perfomances that might be forgotten in such a massive cast is a droll and deadpan Paul Rudd. Rudd’s depiction of hen-pecked husband Pete might be one of his best roles yet. Acting as a mentor and friend to Ben, Pete’s relationship with his over-the-top wife Debbie serves as an example of “what not to be” in a relationship.

Forget the sequels this summer. Although it might not feature the high-priced Frat Pack or pirates covered in barnacles, Knocked Up is much more deserving of the ten dollars you’ll be forced to shell out at the theatre.

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