Rogen Joshes Heigl
After watching Judd Apatow's "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and seeing the trailer for "Knocked Up" I was expecting another hilarious comedy which would push the boundaries of taste whilst also delivering a meaningful message. I certainly wasn't disappointed as "Knocked Up" delivers on both with various highly visual gags which border on the vulgar whilst also delivering a message about how having a baby will not only change your life but also make you grow up.
When Alison (Katherine Heigl - Under Siege 2) receives a promotion from the TV station she celebrates the good news with her sister by going dancing and drinking where she meets Ben (Seth Rogen - You, Me and Dupree), a slacker with no prospects but a good nature. A one night stand ensues and a few weeks later when Alison discovers that she is pregnant she invites Ben out for another date to break the news. Although as different as chalk and cheese they decide to try and make a go of things for the sake of the baby but with so many differences things never run smoothly.
What you can say about "Knocked Up" is that although the storyline is in essence not that new the way Apatow deals with it is not always predictable. He makes the peaks and troughs of a turbulent romance much larger giving "Knocked Up" at times a completely different feel to many rom-coms. Plus with the way the relationship between Alison and Ben develops you really don't know whether or not Apatow will bow to commercialism and deliver that predictable happy ever after ending or something different.
Apatow certainly knows what he is doing when it comes to these sorts of movies and his pacing is something which makes "Knocked Up" and his other movies so good. He hits you with a gag and allows you to revel in the embarrassment of those concerned just long enough before swiftly moving on. He doesn't dwell on the gag long after its impact has been lost and doesn't fire off gags one after the other without giving meaning in-between. In "Knocked Up" there does appear to be more time in between gags than say in "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" but I liked this as it allowed the storyline to develop naturally in between the plethora of humour.
A lot of the gags in "Knocked Up" are visual but there are also some nice moments of observational humour. Part of the reason why much of the observational humour works is that it flows naturally, as if much of the dialogue is the result of improv rather than sticking to a strict script. You just have to watch any scene featuring Ben and you get a strong feeling that Seth Rogen's responses were thought up there and then making it feel genuine and spontaneous.
What is also nice is that behind the various gags which fill up "Knocked Up" Apatow delivers a movie which does attempt to portray impending parenthood in a true yet hysterical light. Unlike many rom-coms it uses the fact that pregnancy is stressful and that it is made all the worse when it is the result of an unfortunate one-night-stand to full effect. You get Alison complaining that she is becoming unattractive whilst Ben struggles with the thought of having sex with her due to her being pregnant. Plus of course it demonstrates the constant arguing usually caused by the most trivial and meaningless of things.
The main characters in "Knocked Up" are surprisingly good. Alison does come across as that career minded go getter who knows what she wants from life where as Ben is that typical man-child who somehow has managed to get through life without the need to be in the slightest bit responsible, but at the same time he comes over as not completely loathsome. This is the thing, despite the main characters being completely different they do come over as likeable making it much easier to empathise with each of them rather than having to side with one or another. Even the supporting characters are not that bad with Alison's sister and her husband providing plenty of good material for more observational humour. The only negative is that Ben's group of slacker friends are too large and come across as being background noise rather than providing any real impetus in the movie.
As for the stars well again the main ones are very good. Seth Rogen is perfect as slacker Ben and as already suggested he seems very spontaneous when he makes any response. You also get a sense that Rogen may have been able to call on his own personal experiences to portray an effective slacker. Katherine Heigl does an equally good job and although some may say that she lacks the spontaneity of other cast members the fact that he responses come over as scripted and thought out heightens the difference between the characters as you wouldn't expect someone who is career minded to be overly spontaneous, more calculated.
On top of Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl "Knocked Up" also features Leslie Mann as Alison's sister Debbie and Paul Rudd as her sarcastic brother-in-law Pete. Both of which are brilliant in there parts providing plenty of background humour to stop "Knocked Up" feeling like a one man show.
Being Apatow's directional follow up to "The 40 Year Old Virgin" it's actually good that "Knocked Up" doesn't feel just like an extension to his previous hit. It does at times feel slightly more serious, not too the extent that its emphasis is anything but on the laughs, but in being such may not appeal to those who were expecting the full on humour of "The 40 Year Old Virgin".
What this all boils down to is that "Knocked Up" is a very good movie it does reside in the world of predictability and in amongst the characters, performances and humour it has a heartfelt message about growing up. But be warned if you are easily offended then there is a multitude of bad language and a few boundary pushing scenes which may because you turn away in disgust.