Knocked Up Review
Romantic comedy is hard to get right if you want to appeal to a broad demographic, with most films falling into one of two distinct categories. There’s the girly-girly film that women have to drag their other halves along to (Notting Hill, Pretty Woman, Four Weddings etc) and then there is the frat boy comedy that girls will go to, but only if they are around the age of 16 and still laugh at fart jokes (American Pie being a case in point). Producing something that will please the teenage audience and both the male and female adults is something of a cinematic high wire act, but Judd Apatow seems to have it nailed.
Two years ago he wrote and directed The 40 Year Old Virgin, a sweet and funny adult comedy that had broad appeal, and didn’t feel the need to pander to the “yoof” market. Believable characters and a sweet, but bawdy storyline gave him box office success and the kudos he needed to go one step further. And with Knocked Up he has gone one step further, and funnier.
Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) is a 23 year old slacker who spends his days hanging out with his slacker mates, getting stoned and creating a web site that lets people find their favourite movie stars’ nude scenes, blissfully unaware that such a site already exists. Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) is a beautiful blonde who works behind the scenes at the E! TV channel, lives with her sister and brother in law and dreams of getting in front of the camera. When she is given a promotion to on screen presenter she takes her sister clubbing to celebrate, and it is here that Alison and Ben’s lives collide. Showing what happens in real life, when beautiful women lower their standards slightly after a few drinks, and below average men get ideas above their station, these two end up in bed together. Ben gets the inevitable brush off in the morning, but 8 weeks later when Alison finds herself pregnant he gets a surprise phone call.
Here is where Knocked Up differs from so many romantic comedies of recent years. These aren’t two impossibly beautiful people who the audience know will end up together, they are a couple of average Joes who want to see if a relationship will work for the sake of a baby. From the start we are never sure how this will turn out, and the beauty of the film is taking the journey with them, wherever it might lead.
Seth Rogen is a very likeable romantic lead, looking like a slightly more loveable Rory McGrath, and Katherine Heigl is beautiful but not in an “out of my league” kind of way. After a while you really do believe that these two could end up together. The supporting characters are also very well drawn, three dimensional people that you can imagine having as friends. Especially good are Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd as Alison’s sister and brother in law. A pair that starts out as a stereotypical bickering film couple, they are given depth through their back-story, which starts to mirror that of the main characters and helps ask the film’s main question – is a baby a good enough reason for a couple to be together?
There are a few plot devices that the more cynical viewer will have to overcome. The main couple are far too willing to have the baby. In reality it is doubtful Alison would have ever contacted Ben, and if she did, it’s highly unlikely he would have been receptive to the idea of parenting. Also their expenditure seems to way outstrip their income. I know married couples with two high paying jobs who would LOVE to spend like these two do. And despite being alluded to by a couple of characters, the word abortion is never mentioned. It’s telling that in this day and age, American cinema is willing to show a pregnant woman having sex and also feature drug use, smoking, pre marital sex and extreme profanity in a mainstream comedy, but abortion is still a taboo word.
Ignoring all that, this is, at last, a romantic comedy that women will not have to drag their other halves to see. In fact, it may very well be the other way round. Knocked Up. A romantic comedy for men!