Knocked Up review

            Writer Mike White joins Judd Apatow on a commentary track for an episode of Freaks and Geeks that he wrote and he talks about his experience on Dawson’s Creek prior to writing that episode. Despite the lack of viewer dedication which led to the cancellation of one of the greatest shows to air on television, Freaks and Geeks did receive a small amount of attention for the realistic casting of the show. The characters all look their age on the show, because it is a show based more than anything else on real people and real emotions. This seems to be Apatow’s stamp, as each project his has taken on as a writer and director has as much heart as humor. The characters are so real that there is no need for the expected plot twists. While many comedies rely on a villain, or at least some sort of competition for the romantic lead, each of Apatow’s films manage to make the protagonist his own worst enemy, and yet just as likable despite if not because of their flaws. Even though the writing is allowed much more vulgarity and adult humor, Knocked Up as well as The 40-Year-Old Virgin manage to maintain the same heart which was born in his television creations.

            Knocked Up begins with a brilliant cross-cutting sequence showing the extremely different lifestyles of the two romantic leads. While Allison Scott (Katherine Heigl) has a responsible life living with her sister and working at a successful career as an up-and-coming entertainment journalist Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) is a Canadian living illegally in the United States attempting to start a movie nudity website and living with his slacker pot-smoking friends. After a chance encounter the two of them meet in a bar and end up having a one-night stand. Although Ben is cheerful as ever the next morning it is obvious that Allison wants to forget the incident ever happened, which is made more difficult when she becomes pregnant. They both decide to do the responsible thing and try and have the baby together but it quickly becomes obvious that their lifestyles are not the same and the only role models they have are Allison’s sister Debbie and her brother-in-law Pete, played by fantastic scene stealing actors Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd. The problem is that Debbie and Pete are having problems growing up as well, making in them poor examples in many situations.  

            Seth Rogan is one of the few actors who has been involved in nearly every production Apatow has been involved in and he was even the first choice for the Undeclared lead, but this is the first chance that he has been given to carry a film. It worked out well for Steve Carrell, who has a fantastically awkward cameo in Knocked Up as well, and I predict that this film does wonders for Rogan’s career. Many other cast members from past productions also pop up, all perfectly resembling many people I know and love in real life, but also familiar in the sense that I have watched Freaks and Geeks so many times that no amount of facial hair and growth is enough for me not to recognize the cast and feel as though there is some justice in Apatow finally finding a place in which he can be appreciated. While the language fitting an R-rated film may help to bring audiences in, Knocked Up is likely to carry much more weight with it than an unsuspecting audience member might anticipate. The rating allows for mass quantities of weed to be smoked during the course of the film, but the focus isn’t on being vulgar or disgusting for the rating. Instead the writing just comes off as real people who are doing and saying what they would be saying in life, with no thought to a rating at all. Isn’t this the way all films should be made?

            As much as can praise the dialogue in this film as well as any other script that Apatow has ever written, I am also more aware of the shortcomings with each additional project. It must have been difficult wrapping up Freaks and Geeks as quickly as possible, and Undeclared was canceled in a hurry as well, so it is no wonder that Knocked Up seems in a hurry to reach the resolution after backing into somewhat of a corner. Fortunately in resolving everything quickly we manage to skip many of the clichés of romantic comedies, but it also leaves the film feeling as though it patches everything slightly suddenly. The 40-Year-Old Virgin has the same problem, which is resolved by an absurd musical number at the end, a choice which might have given the audience to let the resolution settle a bit more in Knocked Up. Still, even with these “flaws” I will eagerly anticipate each film which comes even close to this caliber and praise Judd Apatow as one of the most insightful and heartfelt writer/directors working in Hollywood.   

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