– Summary –
Director :Judd Apatow
Cast : Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr, Charlyne Yi, Iris Apatow, Maude Apatow, Joanna Kerns, Harold Ramis, Alan Tudyk, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Ken Jeong.
Year Of Release : 2007
Length : 129 Minutes
Synopsis: An imbecile impregnates a gorgeous woman and has to come to terms with it. Happens every day.
Review : “Real” comedy about unplanned pregnancy is the excuse for some truly excruciating performances and scripting, with this film going a long way to ensuring men never have unprotected sex again.
Blindingly inane “comedy” from the currently white-hot director Judd Apatow, the man behind The 40 Year Old Virgin, among others, is about as funny as being kicked in the groin and stomped on afterwards by a pack of rampaging neo-Nazis. I just cannot get the way people rave about this film, as well as Apatows other efforts (Superbad was a woefully idiotic film) in such ways as to bask in the reflected glory of luminaries like Animal House, Porky’s and even a little of American Pie. Admittedly, the concept of Knocked Up, with a fairly average Joe (Seth Rogen, in the role of Ben Stone) managing to impregnate a fairly hot chick while on a drunken night out, is amusing to begin with, and the constant differences in their thinking, way of life, and social skill set are played out quite well: Katherine Heigl is bemusingly benign as the woman with the foetus (Alison), and while being a far cry from her glory as a nurse on Grey’s Anatomy, this film is perhaps an indication of where Hollywood see her going now: she’s the next Julia Roberts.
Before I get into the nitty gritty, I feel I must point out that I have an issue with comedy that relies too heavily on puss, slime, body odour, poo, wee, vomit, drunken stupidity, swearing and general uncouth behaviour. A little is okay, but a lot is too much. I understand that it appeals to the youth of today, however, comedy should be subtle enough for most people to “get”, if not entirely appreciate.
Knocked Up, while certainly touching on some delicate issues and pounding them into our faces with the subtlety of Paris Hilton on a shopping spree, manages to be both yawn-inducingly boring and altogether disjointed, stumbling between the drunken fumblings of both stars as they copulate, to the bizarre, emotion charged birthing process, filled to the brim with Hollywood cliché. Seth Rogen, a perfect fit as the “average Joe” character who manages to become a reluctant father, sways between silly, immature clod and semi-moral/ethical decent guy, a character arc not quite developed enough to inspire either illicit sympathy or outright condemnation. Rogen’s gruff, bullish delivery is endearing enough, however he’s not quite a fully formed character, a result, perhaps, of a mismatched scripting process with a central character not entirely fully defined. Leslie Mann plays Debbie, Alison’s sister, in a screeching, one-note performance that borders on overblown hysteria, it’s simply awful. I don’t think the blame for this can be laid solely at Mann’s feet, although it would certainly be nice; no, I think the script offers nothing in the way of careful, deliberately managed development of her character. Debbie starts the film as one person, and ends it in just the same fashion. Annoying, sure, and no doubt plenty of viewers identified with her seemingly endless struggle to understand, control and appreciate her dull husband (Rudd), but it is perhaps the singular disappointment of the whole film.
Heigl, luminous as ever, is favoured by the screenplay, which seems cobbled together as a series of simply devised set pieces they’ve tried to riff from American Pie. Trouble is, the narrative ain’t quite as cohesive as the film-makers would have us credit them for: Paul Rudd’s character has his own complete storyline that manages to have nothing to do with the rest of the film (and let’s be honest, a man struggling with his own martial issues, slipping to Vegas for a boozy night, told like a Hallmark drama, isn’t the most enduring legacy of comedy gold) and there’s so much else going on that the whole movie feels a little convoluted. A little too complex for what the title would have us expect.
It’s a fair statement to say that the camera loves Heigl, she’s utterly radiant, enjoying the same level of popularity on the big screen that she does on Grey’s Anatomy. However, she’s a lone beacon of light in what is otherwise a fairly limp, lacklustre comedy adventure; arguments, laughs, the highs and lows, strung out in a mishmash of gross-out humour and genuine emotion.
While this film managed to rake in gazillions of dollars at the box office, and on digital disc, I was left to ponder the missed opportunities and odd decisions of those behind the camera. Like they couldn’t figure out which direction they wanted to take the film (comedy, semi-comedy, serious, semi-serious?) so they simply went in every direction at once. What’s left is a film devoid of true heart, wallowing in self indulgent egotism and “look at us, aren’t we funny” degeneratism, that still managed to find an audience that loved it.
My wife watched this film with me and loved it, although I guess that was more about the “getting pregnant” bit than anything else. To be honest, I sat through this chore of a film finding little to really like, from a comedy standpoint. Trying to cobble the “comedy” with the genuine laughs was tough, especially when your great lead female character is fundamentally hamstrung by woefully inept male counterparts: the dynamic between Heigl, and Rogen and to some extend Paul Rudd, is so lacklustre and off-balance, it fatally warps the film in the direction of “the woman is always right and the man is a complete idiot” territory, from which it cannot possibly recover.
Knocked Up is a problematic comedy, filled with some truly disgusting conversations and events, most of which could have been either toned down or removed altogether without causing the movie to collapse in a heap, as well as a brave performance by Katherine Heigl, and another self-reverential Good Boy job by Seth Rogen. Personally, I thought the humour was devoid of real passion, lacking in the kind of style good comedy films contain, and unsure of which audience it’s pitching to. Thus, Knocked Up is less than perfect, and perhaps only suitable for a boozy, pizza-filled night in with the rest of your boozy, pizza-filled buddies, and certainly shouldn’t be used as a modern commentary on parenthood in the new millennium.