Wednesday 8 June 2016

Movie Review: Knocked Up (2007)

A crude romantic comedy, Knocked Up does not hold back on the vulgarities but also finds a few good comic moments in the story of an unwanted pregnancy resulting from a drunken one night stand.

Alison (Katherine Heigl) works at the E! television channel, and is unexpectedly promoted to celebrity interviewer. To celebrate she goes out for a night of clubbing fun with her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann), who is married to Pete (Paul Rudd) and the mother of two. Alison ends the night having unprotected sex with slacker Ben (Seth Rogen), who does nothing in life except get high and hang out with his equally useless friends Jason (Jason Segel), Jay (Jay Baruchel), Jonah (Jonah Hill) and Martin (Martin Starr). The morning after, Alison confirms that she has nothing in common with Ben and they part ways.

Eight weeks later Alison discovers that she is pregnant. She reconnects with Ben, and decides to go through with the pregnancy. They try to make it work as a couple, while Debbie and Pete face a crisis of their own. As the due date draws nearer, the stresses of the forced relationship between Alison and Ben come to the fore.

Directed and written by Judd Apatow, Knocked Up is a hit-and-miss romantic comedy, although the romance element is more of a search through the jungle of incompatibility. There are plenty of laughs to be sure, but also many jokes that fall flat and others that are overcooked. The improvisational, irreverent vibe is a welcome shot in the arm for an often tired genre, as is the unapologetic celebration of the brotherhood of offensive slackerhood. But there is only so much humour that can be squeezed out of men who waste their life on dope, juvenile sex jokes and the general pursuit of nothingness, and Knocked Up frequently bumps up against these limits.

Beneath the coarse exterior, Apatow does add thoughtful commentary on relationship dynamics. The women, through Alison and Debbie, are portrayed as more stressed but also more responsible and more caring. The men, represented primarily by Ben and Pete, are either diamonds in the rough, or just rough, seeking escape from the emotional responsibilities of adulthood through actions that avoid accountability. While the men seem to be more fun, it is the women who set the agenda and make the key decisions that strive towards meaningful happiness.

The cast is mostly made up of Apatow regulars, and they are all in, riding the wave of organic humour, soaring and crashing depending on the cleverness of the dialogue. With all the bromances in full flow, it is left to Heigl and Mann to provide any sense of organizational structure, and they deliver steady performances. The cast also includes Harold Ramis and Kristen Wiig in small roles, and a host of celebrity cameos.

Knocked Up works its way to a spectacular climax, the pregnancy reaching full term just as the reality of what it takes to achieve couplehood finally dawns on Ben, labour pain mixed with manic panic and over-the-top laughs.

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