"Isn't it weird that when you have a kid all of your hopes and dreams go out the window?" -- Knocked Up
Once Monday morning rolls around, two things will be certain: 1) Everyone who did see Knocked Up over the weekend will find it to be the funniest film of the year so far, and 2) Judd Apatow will officially become the proud father of an instant classic. Both will happen fast -- almost instantaneously -- and you might not notice until the memorable quotes begin flying out the mouths of your fellow co-workers during that dreaded morning meeting. With no zany high concept, no major set pieces, no A-list stars and practically no physical comedy, you'd think Knocked Up would struggle to find even the mildest scattered laughter during its whopping (for a comedy) 129-minute running time. But thanks to Seth Rogan and the outstanding supporting cast, Judd Apatow picks up right where The 40 Year Old Virgin left off -- delivering a flawless situational comedy that feeds off a smorgasbord of delicious, relatable dialogue and enough heart to transform even the coldest, non-committal bachelor into the kind of guy who's just dying to start a family ... right after he gets back in line to watch the year's greatest comedy one more time.
Remember that group of stoners from school who always laughed off the corporate nine to five job and were convinced they'd discover the perfect get-rich-quick scheme providing them with enough money to sit on their asses and smoke pot for the rest of eternity? Well that's Ben (Rogan) and his best pals; all of whom are in their early twenties and sitting on top of, what they believe, is buried internet treasure -- a website that tracks nude scenes in movies and tells users exactly which point in the film said nudity shows up. Flesh of the stars.com. Ain't it grand? When they're not busy getting high or humiliating one another, the boys like to engage in some extra-curricular activities, such as sitting around at the bar -- staring at the beautiful women -- and doing nothing. That is, until Ben takes a chance and strikes up a conversation with Alison (Katherine Heigl); a pretty blonde out celebrating a job promotion with her self-conscious, do-you-think-I'm-still-sexy older sister Debbie (Leslie Mann). One drink leads to several, and before you know it Ben and Alison are waist-deep in a one-night-stand; an encounter that will change each of their lives forever.
Well, it's called Knocked Up for a reason, and not only does Alison (who just landed an on-air gig with E! Entertainment) regret kissing this chubby slacker with a Jew-fro, but now she has to decide whether or not to keep his baby. She's cute, he's not. She's successful, he doesn't have a dime to his name. She has everything to lose, and he has a really sweet glass bong. Together, they're a match made in heaven. What first started out as a throwaway fling with a drunken stranger now has to become something more, and when Alison chooses not to have a smushmortion (trust me, you'll get it), these opposites begin to look for a way to attract. Apatow had been prepping Rogan for this role his entire career; from Freaks and Geeks all the way through 40 Year Old Virgin, the pair were collaborating, pushing the boundaries, and trying to convince the masses that their brand of humor was worth every penny. The dialogue is refreshingly real; these same obscure pop-culture references are found in every dorm room, every living room and every bar across the country. Ben isn't just a character; he's the guy you know, knew or remember hearing about. If this isn't your life, it's pretty damn close to the one you almost lived.
And that's why we care. Apatow is very keen on dragging the reality out of every scene; every situation. The names of his main male actors (Jason Segal, Jay Baruchel, Martin Starr and Jonah Hill) are the same as their characters (Jason, Jay, Martin and Jonah), and it's clear that a majority of the banter between them is improv; off the grid (or script, if you will). But if you can't relate to a bunch of twenty-somethings bumbling their way through life's happy accidents, then perhaps you'll sympathize with Debbie, the housewife whose white-picket-fence of a family is falling apart because Peter (Paul Rudd), her husband, is hiding a double life that may or may not spell the end of his marriage. Debbie and Peter are what Ben and Alison could be 10 years from now; throughout the film, they'll learn from one another and subsequently teach us how important it is to communicate, to trust and to always give the one you love another chance; be it boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband, friend or family. And it's not like no one has ever done this on screen before, it's just that Apatow has a way of injecting this sort of hilarious comfort into everything he does -- his entire life (and the lives of everyone he knows) spill out of his brain like foul-mouthed obscenities in the operating room during a natural birth.
But those are just the main characters; we haven't even gone near the bit players -- those folks sprinkled throughout whose small roles combine to add the cherry on top of this sensational meal. Harold Ramis, Charlyne Yi, Kristen Wiig and, yes, Ryan Seacrest show up with more than a few laughs up their sleeves. Wiig, especially, is very amusing as the bland E! assistant with a not-so-subtle jealous streak. If there's a flaw in the film, audiences will find it in its length. Apatow is convinced that, with the right comedy, people won't mind dancing a bit close to the check-your-watch time. It just about works in Knocked Up (for those who, unlike me, don't need to go the bathroom real bad at the 100-minute mark) and with a finale that includes a memorable, Farelly-esque (the zipper got caught) sight gag, the film's running time will be the last thing on your mind as the credits begin to roll. The perfect comedy blends humor and heart in a way that leaves you feeling better about tomorrow, and Knocked Up does that without trying to imitate the box office baddies that have come before it. We often feel like our hopes and dreams are over once a child enters the equation, but it's movies like this that help remind us it's only the beginning.