He doesn’t usually get the credit, but Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell and Steve Carell owe much of their success to the fine work of Judd Apatow. And frankly where would young Hollywood be if this man had not brought to life the woefully underseen Freaks and Geeks which introduced as all to the likes of James Franco and Linda Cardellini. Apatow broke through as a feature director two years ago with a little sleeper hit called 40 Year Old Virgin, which was made for a penance but became a hit bigger than so-called blockbusters like The Island.
I was reading a Time magazine interview with Apatow and the reporter made a hilarious point about how the director’s first two films had within them an underlined right wing message. Virgin, of course was about the virtue in saving one’s self for someone special, while the new film Knocked Up shows a couple that embraces an unwanted pregnancy rather than run from it while never looking back. Apatow appreciated the point, but says his choices come from a purely comedic standpoint, as in what would be funnier? Well Apatow does it again with Knocked Up finding room in a raunchy, frat boy, stoner comedy for a sweetly sentimental rom-com about growing up and embracing adulthood.
Seth Rogen, another Apatow regular and Freaks alum, is promoted to leading man as Ben, a twenty-something slacker still living off a personal injury settlement as he works with his friends to start an Internet site dedicated to telling you at what point in a movie your favourite female celebs get naked. Only in this reality could a schlub like Ben go home with the pretty and vivacious Alison, out celebrating her promotion to on-air correspondent for the E! Entertainment Network. One MIA condom later and Alison is pregnant. Ben, despite his deep seeded reluctance towards anything even remotely resembling responsibility agrees to stand by Alison and be a father to their child.
Beyond the trials of Ben and Alison there’s also a subplot involving Leslie Mann as Alison’s domineering older sister and Paul Rudd as her feeling smothered husband. Mann and Rudd’s characters are supposed to reinforce the fears of Ben and Alison the feelings sprung from their impromptu commitment will lead to bitter resentment ten years hence, but the quartet as a whole are the core of the movie. Between the jokes is a message that life isn’t always going to turnout to be the perfect image you conjure in your mind, but you can find happiness so long as you can find it within yourself to be open-minded, and willing to change and grow as you roll with the punches.
Knocked Up is never really belly bustlingly hilarious, that is unless you count the scene where Rudd’s Pete, while tweaking on ‘shrooms, freaks out over the assortment of five different chairs in his hotel room or the fact that his hand tastes like rainbows. And while the four main characters do all the heavy lifting, other Apatow regulars like Jason Segel and Jay Burachel get to trade up-to-the-minute pop culture references. Or you can enjoy SNL regular Kristen Wiig and Firefly’s Alan Tudyk as passive aggressive and smarmy (respectively) E! execs. You can also enjoy spot-on celebrity cameos from the likes of Ryan Seacrest who shows a surprising dark side.