With The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up (with the promise of more thanks to the upcoming Superbad), Judd Apatow has marked himself out as the leader of the pack when it comes to delivering effortless and believable raunchy comedy.

The story is simple, an unplanned pregnancy between two strangers and how it affects their relationship, their friends, family and their work. Ben (Seth Rogen) is a lad's man with a physique the consistency of cookie-dough. He's fond of clubbing, smoking pot, rollercoasters and faux gladiatorial games with his mates. He also runs a business website for analysing the amount of nudity in a given movie, fleshofthestars.com - which really could have used some competition analysis. While I'd want to party with him, he's not exactly father-figure material.

Copy picture

Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) is a modern working woman: professional, nice and finally getting a break with her bosses as she is promoted to on-camera talent on the E! network. To celebrate her promotion, Alison and her older, married sister Debbie (Leslie Mann - Virgin veteran and Apatow's wife) head off clubbing. A charming chance encounter later, and Ben is back to Alison's for a late-night drunken, bareback one-night stand.

The film works sincerely to provide as much human drama as possible, all the while being so very funny that the screenplay's effects multiply when the two written worlds collide.

The only real flaws are that we never truly find out what Alison is like - the script doesn't deal with her enough as a person, but rather treats her as a vessel for raging hormones, morning sickness and physical changes. She appears to have no real friends other than her family, which makes it all the more interesting that Ben, for all his immaturity, seems to be the best thing that's ever happened to her.

The script is consistently clever and well-written but to overlook Alison is a major set-back. However, the actors' startlingly adept comic timing and emotional resonance make it work. And, where the sex is awkward and the medical scenes quite scary, they make their reactions human and believable. The double-take from the gynaecologist's line: "You look a lot like your sister" had me laughing so loudly people started looking at me funny.

Following the secondary characters for a moment: Debbie and her husband Pete (Paul Rudd - getting the lion's share of lines after Rogen) are reaching a crisis in their marriage - they unintentionally antagonise one another, the mid-life strain is getting to both of them. Pete feels the need for some uninhibited male bonding - expressed by sneaking off to a fantasy baseball tournament, or more explosively, for a trip (in more than one sense) in Las Vegas. Debbie is reaching the point in her life when men are no longer hitting on her, causing her to need constant reassurance about her attractiveness. These secondary characters are as carefully drawn as the main players. Ben's buddies are less well-written, although they steal a mammoth number of funny lines (they dare one of their buddies not to shave for a year - and consequently and constantly tease him to shave), and seem to have difficulties coming to terms with their friend growing up.

The other really nice part of the movie is the small throwaway moments. These are good, often great scenes - Harold Ramis as Ben's dad offering some self-consciously bullshit advice for his son and apologising later on about the ineptitude of his son's best-laid plans - "Life doesn't care what you plan". Homespun wisdom, to be sure, but it works. Also in a delicious pair of cameos, Kristen Wiig and Alan Tudyk (Serenity), as Alison's bosses, play passive-aggressive good-cop/bad-cop. Other characters pop in and out, such as a painfully candid bouncer (Craig Robinson), Ryan Seacrest (American Idol) and Steve Carell as themselves. Again, these characters are carefully written and dutifully cast.

To cut these scenes wouldn't do much to the narrative, but to take counter-example, the movie is richer, funnier and more human with them in it, but they do stack up to bolster the running time. The DVD is expected to have an even longer cut of the movie - so we'll see how that turns out.

The characters throughout stay true to themselves, while growing up and becoming better versions of themselves. Apatow's metaphor of "reading the baby books" becomes a sticking point for Ben's acceptance of his parental responsibilities, getting a new job and astutely preparing to fit in with the flow of modern family life. At heart, the movie believes in marriage, family and duty. Surprising, as we don't expect this kind of warmth and humanity in our American relationship comedies.

This is a movie for every smart lover of human comedy, fitting easily in the 15-rating demographic with its comfortable vulgarity, but never dumbing down to thick teenagers as Chris Columbus' similarly themed Nine Months did. Knocked Up is a fantastic date movie, it is one which reaffirms our human frailties, strengths and conditions. It might be a little longer than it needs to be, but I defy you not to enjoy every moment.

Reviewed on: 24 Aug 2007
Share this with others on...
Knocked Up packshot
Comedy about an unplanned pregnancy after a one-night stand.
Amazon link

Director: Judd Apatow

Writer: Judd Apatow

Starring: Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr, Charlyne Yi, Iris Apatow, Maude Apatow, Harold Ramis

Year: 2006

Runtime: 129 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

Festivals:

EIFF 2007

Search database: