Review: Knocked Up

Director: Judd Apatow
Viewed: December 19, 2007
Format: DVD - Universal (2007)

B - I’m skeptical of modern comedies. Often I watch a movie the world has deemed “hilarious” and am left unlaughingly cold. I now confirm my total lack of skepticism about the comedies of Judd Apatow. I didn’t want to like Superbad, but I loved it. The 40 Year Old Virgin is marked in my mind as one of Steve Carrell’s finest film performances. (The only rival being his inspired role in Little Miss Sunshine.)

Apatow’s movies can be vulgar, gross, and juvenile, but interspersed with that is a lot of genuine emotion and depth. Knocked Up was a movie I expected to be insipid. I expected poop jokes, baby puke jokes, jokes about women getting fat during pregnancy and all other manner of stupid, juvenile stuff.

This is an inspired comedy. It is extremely respectful of the struggles, triumphs and the incomparable emotional weight parenthood presents. Knocked Up includes loving, familial dialogue, viciously realistic fights between couples, and bong jokes–and they’re all really funny! The emotional weight of the film is genuine; I found myself brought to tears by some scenes. This is a film about real-life dating, marriage, and family. The dialogue between couples is some of the best “relationship” dialogue ever. Paul Rudd plays a guy who got married and had kids before he actually grew up. He clearly loves his family, but really wants to be a teenager again. Apatow takes pains to point out how infantile his attitude is; his selfishness is evident in almost every exchange. Yet we sort of understand where he’s coming from–he clearly wants the best of both worlds, something nobody can really have.

Seth Rogan is the standout in this movie as Ben Stone, the accidental father. He is a likable, pot-smoking, joke-cracking, deadbeat who is deeply affected by this impending paternity. My favorite bit of dialogue is from a touching scene between Rogan and Harold Ramis, who plays his father, Harris. Ben has just discovered his one-night stand, Allison, is pregnant. He begs Harris to “tell him what to do” because he is utterly without direction at this point:

Harris: I’m gonna be a grandfather.
Ben: You happy about that?
Harris: Absolutely. Delighted.
Ben: This is a disaster.
Harris: No, this is not a disaster.
Ben: It is, you know?
Harris: An earthquake is a disaster. Your grandmother having Alzheimer’s so bad she doesn’t even know who the fuck I am, that’s a disaster. This is a good thing. This is a blessing.
Ben: I had a vision for how my life would go and this definitely is not it.
Harris: Wait. Are you living your vision right now?
Ben: I am kinda living my vision, yeah.
Harris: Well, that is sad, I’m telling you. Life doesn’t care about your vision. Okay?
Ben: Okay.
Harris: Stuff happens. You just got to deal with it. Roll with it. That’s the beauty of it all.
Ben: Honestly, though, when you look at me, do you not think at all, like, you know, if he just never existed, I would have avoided a massive heap of trouble? You know?
Harris: Absolutely not. I love you totally and completely. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.
Ben: I’m the best thing that ever happened to you?
Harris: Yeah.
Ben: Now I just feel bad for you.

(Emphasis mine.) The exchange is so lovely and simple. Heartfelt, funny, and, to me, completely realistic. The words his father says could (and have!) come out of my mother’s mouth. Harris cannot seem to convince Ben that fatherhood is not the disaster he perceives it to be, but something to cherish.Seth Rogan’s performance is blushingly honest. He plays the “everyman” so beautifully, it’s something different than acting. Highly recommended. Leave your preconceptions at the door.

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