Review: Knocked Up
By Shane Jenkins
June 6, 2007
Writer/director/producer Judd Apatow is the Kevin Bacon of comedy. Having been involved with some of the biggest comedy hits of the past few years (Anchorman, Talladega Nights, The 40 Year-Old Virgin), and with seven movies coming up (including August's Superbad), his connection to the world of comedy is undeniable, and about to become inescapable. He worked on TV's beloved Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, was a producer on The Larry Sanders Show and Ben Stiller's sketch-comedy program, and was even Adam Sandler's roommate, for crying out loud. If there is a new school of comedy, you would be hard-pressed to find one of its pupils that doesn't link in some way to Apatow.
His latest movie, Knocked Up, may be the Apatow-iest of his work to date. He has rounded up a collection of actors he worked with in the past, including Jason Segel and Martin Starr from Freaks, Jay Baruchel from Undeclared, and Jonah Hill from Virgin. He's even thrown in cameos from former Apatow players Steve Carell and James Franco. As his leading man, he's cast Seth Rogen, who would seem to be his muse, having appeared in all of these projects, as well as being Apatow's sometimes writing and producing partner. Like Christopher Guest and Woody Allen, Apatow has created something of a repertory company, surrounding himself with talent he has enjoyed working with previously. Unfortunately, he also runs the danger of having Knocked Up be too precious, too in-jokey.
And it is, a little bit.
Starr, Segel, Baruchel, and Hill are Rogen's bong-hitting, porn-watching, job-shirking roommates. There are too many of them for any to really register with us. Starr, so great as nerd-to-end-all-nerds Bill Haverchuck on Freaks, is given nothing to do here but grow an awful beard and get mocked for it. And Hill isn't even given that, leaving Baruchel's sweet stoner and Segal's smooth talker to do most of the "irresponsible friend" heavy lifting. Clearly, Apatow loves these guys, loves these characters, but should have focused on fewer of them, and allowed them to develop more (although I'm sure their outtakes and deleted scenes that will end up on the DVD will be great).
Rogen is, as always, a bracing change from the usual cookie-cutter guys on screen. His Ben is chubby and hairy, but has an innate goodness and humor to him that is attractive, and we can understand when pretty blond TV journalist Alison (Grey's Anatomy's Katherine Heigl) takes him home after a night of heavy drinking. The next morning, during a grueling post-coital breakfast, Ben orders a milkshake, tells Alison how he plans to live the next two years on 900 bucks, and they go their separate ways, neither really expecting to see the other again.
That wouldn't leave much of a movie, though, so six weeks later, Alison discovers she is pregnant. An abortion is barely even thought about, and goes unmentioned by name, which I think is a bit of dishonesty on Apatow's part. Knocked Up is a film that mostly tries to be as realistic as possible, and to not acknowledge that these apparently liberal characters would probably at least consider the option makes this movie seem more conservative than its large doses of casual sex, nudity and profanity would suggest. I realize that the premise is shot if they have an abortion, but Alison's seemingly overnight decision to have the baby feels more like a requirement of the screenplay than a natural decision.