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Review: Knocked Up

By Shane Jenkins

June 6, 2007

It's not that I'm too big to play House with you. It's that I feel under-dressed.

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In any case, the bulk of the film deals with Ben and Alison attempting to see if there could be anything between them romantically, in the months leading up to the birth. Giving them a possible glimpse of their future are Alison's sister and brother-in-law, played by Apatow's real-life wife, Leslie Mann, and Paul Rudd (another Friend of Apatow). They argue, criticize, lie, and it's all just too much. I guess Apatow should be credited with allowing his wife to come off so badly, but her character, Debbie, is truly hateful. She's the worst kind of caricature of a modern suburban mom - shallow, spiteful, vindictive - and you want Rudd's character to take the kids and get the hell away from her. Apatow has a keen ear for dialog and eye for character where his shlubby everyday guys are concerned, but he's a bit of a mess with the ladies - Debbie's a monster, and even Alison's job is mostly to react to Ben's immaturity.

Remember in Wayne's World when things were going really bad for Wayne (losing his girlfriend, not talking to Garth, etc.), and he was so full of anger and sadness that even the camera started to move away from him? Knocked Up has a middle section like that, but instead of it occupying ten minutes or so, it seems to go on forever, and bogs down the entire movie in the process. It's a pretty serious miscalculation. Our two main couples have split up, after some really nasty arguments all around, and this is followed by endless conversations about the difficulty of relationships. The boys go to Vegas to eat shrooms and fall in love with each other. Not in any kind of sexual way, of course, but they are obviously more enamored of each other than they are of their women. This trip to Vegas yields some funny bits, but it's wholly unnecessary, and goes on for far too long. Since the end of the movie is never in any doubt, we sit through these scenes and wait for them to be over, so everyone can go back to being nice again (well, everyone but Debbie). It's a bit of padding in a movie that could have done with less padding.




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If I seem to be overly critical here, I assure you it's only out of love. Freaks and Geeks may be my favorite TV show, and 40 Year-Old Virgin was one of the best movies of that year, so if I don't think Knocked Up is quite up to those other triumphs, I don't mean to suggest that much of it isn't damned funny. It is, and there are plenty of things to love about it. SNL's Kristin Wiig is absolutely hilarious as a passive-aggressive TV executive. Ryan Seacrest has a great, self-mocking cameo. The scene with Ben and Alison having pregnant sex is deliriously funny while still managing to feel authentic. Harold Ramis as Ben's dad is some terrific casting, and the two have some really nicely done father and son conversations.

Like every other movie so far this summer that doesn't have a talking gingerbread man, Knocked Up is entirely too long, and would have been stronger with a bit of pruning. But I suspect that Apatow's reluctance to trim too much comes out of his genuine love for these characters, making this a more personal, acceptable indulgence. If someone has to dominate our comedy-viewing lives for the next few years, I guess I'm glad it's him. I mean, it could be Larry the Cable Guy, say, with seven productions in development.


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