Imagine getting together with all your old friends from high school and college, and everybody immediately hits it off and starts joking around and having the best time ever. That’s what watching “Knocked Up” is like for a long-time Judd Apatow fan like myself. I’ve been on the Apatow Train since the classic, underappreciated TV show “Freaks and Geeks,” I was a big fan of his college comedy series “Undeclared,” and I braved the dreadfully titled “The 40-year-old Virgin” and found it brilliant. “Knocked Up” brings together actors from all of those projects. I came into it with huge expectations, and I was not disappointed.
As with “The 40-year-old Virgin,” the title of “Knocked Up” tells about half of the plot right away. The deal is, Katherine Heigl plays Allison, a bubbly, adorable TV assistant who gets promoted to an on-air gig. She celebrates by hitting the clubs with her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann), and through the magic of beer goggles she hooks up with the goofy, lovable, barrel-shaped Ben (Seth Rogen). After their one-night stand, Ben goes back to his pot-smoking, slacker lifestyle, while Allison pursues her new career. Six weeks later she is puking all the time, and guess what?
Up until that point the film is just good, solid comedy. After Allison tells Ben the news, the comedy starts getting mixed with some really good, human moments. Despite her Mother’s advice to, “Just get it taken care of,” Allison decides to have the baby. Meanwhile, Ben’s dad (Harold Ramis) offers him some much better fatherly advice about playing the hand you are dealt, “Life doesn't care about your vision. You just gotta roll with it.” As Ben and Allison try to determine the parameters of their own relationship, they get a funny/poignant look at the dark side of marriage and family from Allison’s sister (Leslie Mann) and brother-in-law (Paul Rudd). On the career front, Allison learns that Hollywood is much more comfortable with pretty, young blondes than with pregnant ones, and she gets a taste of the amazingly insensitive things that people actually say to pregnant women (Does anyone really think that a woman wants to be told she is “huge”?).
Apatow’s work shines for two reasons. One is the humor spiked with reality that never loses sight of his characters’ humanity. Characters that, in lesser hands, would be simple comic foils, always manage to have a scene marking them as real people. The other strength of Apatow’s work is the stellar acting. He has something of his own troupe of guys, and he recycles them through all his productions. One by one you cannot help falling in love with these guys, and “Knocked Up” brings the whole crowd together in one film.
I hesitate to name “Knocked Up” the best movie of the year, because I haven’t yet seen Apatow’s other 2007 release “Superbad.” Until then, I’ll just rate it 5 stars out of 5.