Jul 10, 2007

Knocked Up

Knocked Up

Rating: A

Woman gets pregnant and nine months later ...

It's been done, sure, but rarely, if ever, this well. From the director (Judd Apatow) and several stars of The 40-Year-Old Virgin comes a truly hysterical movie that takes that somewhat worn premise and gives it the talent and writing that others have failed to provide.

Seth Rogan plays Ben Stone, a barely-lovable loser who collects reimbursement checks from the Canadian government while living as an illegal immigrant in Los Angeles. Sure, he's a nice guy, and a fairly happy one, but he isn't exactly a man with a future. He lives in a shabby house with a handful of fellow stoners while they work on their dream project: a website database of celebrity nudity.

Allison Scott (Katherine Heigl) is a beautiful, up-and-coming PA on E! with about as bright a future as it gets. Recently promoted to an on-air position, Allison heads out to celebrate with her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) and, to the surprise of no one who's seen the trailer (or knows the title of the film), she ends up in a drunken, condomless hook-up with Ben.

What follows is more or less what you'd expect: Allison tells Ben, they have a "scene" in which each blames the other for their predicament, they decide to try to work it out, they grow closer, they fight, Ben grows up a little, etc.

What makes Knocked Up better than very similar movies like Nine Months boils down to better characters, better writing, and better acting.

Paul Rudd plays Debbie's husband Pete. As in Virgin, he steals half the movie despite the fact that he's only in about a quarter of it. He is hysterical, both in his underplayed, frustrated husband role, and in more over-the-top scenes, such as Pete and Ben's attempted homage to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Rudd is very nicely counterpointed by Mann, who manages to play a complete bitch without ever quite letting us hate her.

Ben's stoner buddies, played by Jay Baruchel, Martin Starr, Jonah Hill, Charlyne Yi, and Jason Segel are walking, talking metaphors for where Ben is headed (i.e. nowhere in particular), and have a fantastic group chemistry. Segel, in particular, is great as the "Ladies Man" of the gang, playing a ridiculous but nonetheless confident clubber. His attraction to Debbie is one of the more memorable threads that run through the movie.

Ben's relationship with his friends is, predictably, a sort of barometer for his maturity level throughout the film. Given that device, it's impressive that the movie manages to separate Ben from the gang without making us feel they've been left behind, or that it's necessary to become boring and uptight in order to grow up.

Still, the movie rests largely on Rogan and Heigl, and they make the most of good material. Virgin alone was enough to make me a Rogan fan, and he's even better here. Never having seen Grey's Anatomy, Roswell, or anything else from Heigl, I didn't know what to expect, but she fits into the Apatow comedy machine without a hitch. I actually felt she seemed more at home in this film than Catherine Keener did in Virgin (and I liked Keener in that).

Overall, it's a great romantic comedy. It's crude as hell, but charmingly so. The story isn't quite as original as The Forty-Year-Old Virgin's, but in terms of quality and enjoyability, it's right up there. If you liked one, you'll almost certainly like the other.

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