Knocked Up (2007)

Watchable

Content written by Tony Macklin. Originally published on June 14, 2007 in Fayetteville Free Weekly.

Knocked Up is like a Hallmark Greeting Card with crude verse.

Knocked Up is an uneasy mix of ethnic humor, slacker humor, and human drama -- some is amusing, some is indulgent, and some is strained.

It has been immensely well-received by reviewers. Rottentomatoes.com calculated reviews of Knocked Up as 92 percent favorable.

Perhaps in a season of would-be comedies such as Georgia Rule and Wild Hogs, reviewers see Knocked Up as a comic oasis. But it's a mirage.

Knocked Up may be an oasis for some -- slackers and nerds. It's a view of paradise they will never see in what is called "real life." It seems the majority of reviewers may be slackers and nerds.

The plot of Knocked Up strains credibility -- no, it snaps it. Ben (Seth Rogen) is a pudgy slacker living with four immature housemates. The fallow quintet's dream of success is to assemble a website of sex scenes from movies. Ben and his housemates lazily spend their days doing research at home with bongs and bangs.

Alison (Katherine Heigl) is a beautiful blonde, who gets promoted to on-air reporter on the E! network. She and her married sister go out to celebrate. Ben and Alison meet at a bar, get drunk, have sex and she gets pregnant. At this point Knocked Up gets fuzzy. The mismatched pair eventually fall in love and have the baby. Sure they do. The writer says so. It makes one want to sing like Paul Anka.

Alison falls in love with Ben because he is "sweet." He has no money, no style, and no prospects, but he is sweet. One might buy the premise if Ben had money, but he doesn't. He's all sugar, no spice. He's lovable. See what Shrek has spawned.

Knocked Up is teeming with likable characters, some so likable you want to smack them. Harold Ramis pretends he is a light bulb as Ben's thrice-married father -- all glow and platitudes.

Director/writer Judd Apatow is happily nepotistic. His two daughters smile and giggle a lot as Alison's nieces. Apatow's wife plays Alison's sister, Debbie. She doesn't smile much.

What holds the movie together like bubble gum is the strong performance by Katherine Heigl (Grey's Anatomy) as Alison. She's a better actress then Seth Rogen (Ben) is an actor, but he slogs along and survives.

Heigl is beautiful but her character has human frailties which keeps the unbelievable pairing from being totally ridiculous.

Rogen tries his best as Ben but he is forgettable. He morphs into the more talented Kevin James when one leaves the theater. King of Queens is much more believable than Knocked Up because Doug and Carrie Heffernen are from the same social strata.

Kristen Wiig is a welcome relief as Alison's uptight boss.

I'm sorry. I just don't guffaw over fart-on-pillow jokes. Flatulence had its apogee in Blazing Saddles (1974). It had its nadir in the recent Click. It can be sent to bean heaven.

The four slacker housemates seem trapped in a time warp of mediocrity. Jay Baruchel, the most antic of them, must have been hired for his gangly body. it's not his talent. If you don't want to see this movie and still want to see a group of white men acting dumb, you can tune into the Republican debates.

Director/writer Judd Apatow has talent. He did the terrific TV series Freaks and Geeks and the movie 40 Year Old Virgin. But in Knocked Up, he's discovered marshmallow. For all its seeming hipness, Knocked Up has a marshmallow heart. Good hearted humor has its limitations. Wit is often replaced by sentimentality -- a slacker's way out.

Knocked Up has been celebrated for its improvisation, but a smartly written joke is better than an improvised gibe. It ends with the patented delivery room scene. It's more harrowing than most, which I guess is supposed to separate it from a Steve Martin movie. But it's still an obvious convention.

The movie has an occasional imaginative scene, such as Ben and Pete (the dependable Paul Rudd), Alison's brother-in-law, on mushrooms at Cirque du Soleil and back in their hotel room in Las Vegas, riffing on the variety of chairs. But Knocked Up is not as funny or clever as last year's Borat or Talladega Nights or Apatow's own 40 Year Old Virgin. Knocked Up, for all its supposed slacker sensibility and soft heart, is ultimately a nerd's delusion.


You might be interested in reading my most recent reviews, all of my reviews from this year, or all of my reviews from last year.

For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).


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