MOVIE REVIEW- From 'Virgin' to...: 'Knocked up' in one easy step
When is a chick flick not a chick flick? When it's Knocked Up, a hilarious comedy for mature people of any gender–not AARP mature, just old enough to hear dialogue that's fresh, frank, funny and other F-words; probably more F-words, in fact, than any major studio comedy ever.
Writer-director Judd Apatow turned Steve Carell into a movie star with The 40 Year Old Virgin. With Knocked Up he does the same for the even more unlikely Seth Rogen, who was one of the guys in Virgin. He also dates back to Freaks and Geeks with Apatow, as do several other actors in Knocked Up. Perhaps that's why they work together so well. This may be the closest Rogen gets to playing a romantic lead. He's more likely to assume the "Everyslob" mantle of the likes of John Belushi and Jack Black.
Katherine Heigl (Grey's Anatomy), who replaced original cast member Anne Hathaway, also displays big-screen viability. She plays Alison Scott, the woman who gets knocked up by Ben Stone (Rogen) in what's supposed to be a one-night stand. As drunk as she is that night, Ben's luck is as hard for us to believe as it is for him.
Although it's long for a comedy, Knocked Up never drags. It takes its time acquainting us with the individual worlds of Ben and Alison before they start making tentative steps toward a life together. Ben is an unemployed stoner whose only source of income is the last of an insurance settlement from when his foot was run over a decade ago. He shares a house with four other socially retarded slackers (Jason Segel, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, and Martin Starr, all lending their first names to their characters). They're planning to strike it rich on the Internet with a site, fleshofthestars.com, that indexes nude scenes in movies.
Alison lives with her older sister, Debbie (Leslie Mann, the filmmaker's wife), Debbie's husband, Pete (Paul Rudd), and their two kids. Recruited for occasional babysitting and chauffeuring, Alison doesn't show much maternal potential. Debbie and Pete aren't great role models for marriage, which Pete describes as "like an unfunny, tense version of Everybody Loves Raymond."
Ben and Alison don't follow up their initial encounter until eight weeks later, when she finds out she's pregnant. That's when they start to get to know each other. He still feels like he's out of his league. but he's happy to be there. She doesn't feel as fortunate but senses that Ben's a decent guy. That he's a pothead with no visible means of support is something of a disincentive, especially when he proposes marriage. It doesn't help that he doesn't understand how she could refuse him.
The story follows a predictable arc, but the lively dialogue, full of "Oh no, they didn't!" moments, keeps you laughing throughout. In possibly the funniest scene the couple tries to have sex, but Ben is afraid anything he does will hurt the baby.
Aside from raunchy sex talk, there are countless pop culture references, augmented by cameo appearances occasioned by Alison's job at E! Entertainment Television. Don't expect anything to top the first one, Ryan Seacrest's potty-mouthed self-parody: "I'm more famous than half the people we interview anyway." Harold Ramis is extremely well cast for one scene as Ben's father.
Comedy doesn't usually get much respect, but Apatow stands to get recognition for this one. It's not easy to top a Virgin, but he's done it.