CATEGORIES Comedy, SXSW, Universal, Theatrical Reviews, Cinematical Indie, Reviews, SXSW Film Festival, Cinematical
It really is a testament to the writing talents of Judd Apatow that he could take such a simplistically "sitcommy" concept like "slacker slob unexpectedly impregnates an upwardly-mobile young hottie" and turn it into such a warm, witty and frequently drop-dead hilarious motion picture. Clocking in at well over two glorious hours in length, Knocked Up is yet another brilliant little winner from the man who brought you The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared -- thereby proving that network television's loss is cinema's massive gain.
Seth Rogen, generally known as a scene-stealing "support" performer, delivers a star-making turn as Ben Stone, a pot-smokin' web designer who shares a house with four over-baked buddies. But when a chance encounter with a girl way out of his league turns into a night of drunken sex, Ben discovers that he's about to be a daddy -- and to say that the guy's unprepared for the responsibility would be a stunning example of understatement. As the beautiful Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) grows ever rounder, moodier and more hormonal, Ben turns from a funny-yet-irresponsible pothead into a very funny-yet-slightly more responsible pothead. Meanwhile, Alison's sister and brother-in-law struggle with their own marriage and Ben's buddies struggle with the idea that one of their crew has grown up.
I already know what you're thinking: "That's the plot? That sounds like a 1984 TV movie starring Tim Matheson and Jennifer Runyon! How is this premise the backbone of such a wonderful comedy?" I think it's because a) Apatow is such a smart and insightful comedy writer that he can wring laughs from even the most mundane of daily activities, b) the filmmaker has surrounded himself with an absolutely stellar all-star team of comedic actors, and c) Judd's not afraid to shock or arouse his audience if it means he'll earn a few laughs. (I can't tell you how great it is to find an R-rated comedy that's "realistically raunchy" and not simply "vulgar.") Between Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, I'm entirely convinced there's nothing Apatow can't pull off -- especially if he sticks with his faithful acting troupe.
Rogen makes for an effortlessly likable lug. Guys will want to party with the man and most women would probably dig him in a "big teddy bear" sort of way. Ms. Heigl proves herself quite adept at comedy -- and there are very few things in the world more satisfying than a gorgeous woman who is also funny. (True that Knocked Up is mostly Rogen's show, but Mr. Apatow is smart enough to give Heigl a few great gags as well.) And then there's the supporting cast, about which I can only say "wow." Just like he did with Virgin, Apatow stocks every scene with funny people: Paul Rudd (as Alison's mild-mannered but dryly hilarious brother-in-law) steals a half-dozen scenes without even raising his voice and Leslie Mann (as Alison's sister Debbie) is quite excellent throughout. As Ben's buddies, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel and Grant Hayes play like a marijuana-soaked Greek chorus. I could also rattle off the half-dozen (rather amusing) cameo appearances, but I don't want to spoil any of the surprises.
Bottom line: I loved this movie. It's smart and insightful; it's warm and sincere; it's raunchy and hilarious; and it's populated by strong actors who really seem to love the material they're working with. I look forward to seeing it again, tossing my favorite bits of dialogue around with my friends, and digging through the eventual DVD with much enthusiasm. Thanks, Mr. Apatow, for (once again) proving that "R Rated Comedy" is not the exclusive domain of the base, the callous and the insipid.