Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Katherine Heigl……….Alison Scott
Seth Rogen……….Ben Stone
They say that the romantic comedy is perhaps the last bastion of storytelling left in cinema. With the advent of CGI and other improved special effects, storytelling has become somewhat of a lost art for many of the big budget adventures. The main art of telling a story amongst the bulk of pictures has become the romantic comedy and one of its emerging storytellers has become Judd Apatow. After making his feature film debut with one of 2005’s best films in The 40 Year Old Virgin, his second feature doesn’t show any signs of a slump as he brings the same sort of subversive humor in Knocked Up.
Knocked Up follows the unlikely pairing of Alison (Katherine Heigl) and Ben (Seth Rogen). Alison is a production assistant at E!, career-minded and ambitious. Ben is trying to start an internet website with his friends devoted to celebrity nudity, rolling through life in a drug-induced haze. When fate intervenes and they have a one-night stand, the results are a bit more impressive than merely an awkward breakfast the next day. Alison is pregnant, Ben’s the father, and they have to find an understanding in the next nine months about their relationship with one another.
And while it unfolds like a typical romantic comedy, what makes Knocked Up so delightful is that it takes the formula and meshes it with Apatow’s signature brand of foul-mouthed humor to grand success. The script for the film is the equal to his last film and brings the same sort of blue humor that made Virgin a success. It’s tasteless, tacky and brilliantly funny for the most part. Apatow has developed the sort of storyline he previously did and has honed it a little bit more for this film. While the film does suffer from some of the pratfalls of the genre, as it is a bit formulaic and clichÃ© at times, Knocked Up has enough of Apatow’s inspired comedy to inject some life into the formula. There are plenty of great laughs, as Apatow has the sense of what works and what doesn’t in the writing process, and the few jokes that misfire aren’t drug out for extended periods of time.
It also helps that he has great characters and a cast perfectly suited for them. While Rogen is more of a supporting player than a leading man, and Heigl hasn’t established herself as a leading actress yet, but they have a chemistry together that’s offbeat and engaging. Both have characters that aren’t far off from what they’ve already played, so it’s not a stretch to see either in their roles, but they have a terrific chemistry with each other that elevates the already strong material to a higher level. The dialogue fits, but the key is how they interact with each other when they’re not speaking. There are certain nonverbal cues that both use that enhances their interactions; we believe they’re a couple because they act like how one should.
It doesn’t hurt that the supporting cast is strong, as well. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are returning faces and both fit in effortlessly. As Alison’s sister and brother-in law, the duo provides a hilarious example of married life that makes it easy to see Ben’s hesitations in it all. Rudd and Rogen have a proven chemistry that works and many of the film’s funnier moments come from the two playing off each other. Rudd has a knack for playing the straight man and Rogen the zany comic and it works wonderfully; the film’s strongest moments are when the two have the screen to themselves.
While it does suffer a bit from the usual plot contrivances necessary in any romantic comedy, Knocked Up is proof that Judd Apatow might be the next great comic director if early indications hold up. He certainly has a knack for knowing what works and what doesn’t on a grand scale and tries to minimize the latter while enhancing the former. Bits that don’t work but are crucial to the story, though few and far between, are kept to a minimum and are moved through rather quickly enough to keep the film from being drug down by them.
While The 40 Year Old Virgin may have been the sleeper hit of 2005, as it was an August release that ended up being far funnier and better drawing than it was predicted, but Knocked Up has an earlier release date and higher expectations. While it remains to seen whether or not it exceeds the box office receipts that Apatow’s other feature gained, one thing is for sure. He’s crafted another top notch comedy riffing on the concept of the romantic comedy while being an entertaining entry into it.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):