KNOCKED UP

Before making a splash with the surprise hit
THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, Judd Apatow honed
most critically praised series (although several
which he won a writing Emmy Award)
, The Larry
Sanders Show, Freaks and Geeks
and
Undeclared. He has proven loyal to his actors,
utilizing a core of performers from project to
project. With
KNOCKED UP he injects new life
into a well-worn, almost tired premise.

One evening at a trendy L.A. nightclub,
overweight Jewish slacker Ben Stone (Seth
Rogan, moving from supporting to player to
leading man) meets rising TV personality Alison
Scott (Katherine Heigl). In fact, they have a
"meet cute" moment involving a bartender who
ignores them. Alison is out celebrating a recent
promotion with her married sister Debbie (Leslie
Mann) and when Debbie is called home on a
family emergency, Alison decides on the spur of
the moment to stay out partying. She proceeds
to get drunk with Ben and the pair end up back
at her place. Due to a communications
misunderstanding, the pair have unprotected
sex.

In the morning, Alison and Ben try to learn
about one another over breakfast, but it soon
becomes clear they are like oil and water. She
can't get out of the restaurant fast enough and
get to her job at E! Entertainment Television
where she has just landed an on-air gig
interviewing celebrities. He retreats to the
ramshackle home he shares with four other
dudes (Jay Baruschel, Jason Segel, Jonah Hill
and Martin Starr, all playing characters with the
same first names as the actors). The quintet
has hit on the get rich quick scheme of creating
a website that notes female nudity in
mainstream movies (which of course isn't the
novelty they think it is).

Eight weeks later, Alison discovers she's
pregnant and breaks the news to Ben and they
begin a tentative romance that will have its
share of ups and downs. Debbie doesn't fully
approve of Ben who bonds with Debbie's
seemingly milquetoast husband Pete (Paul
Rudd).

Apatow has a way with one-liners and many hit
their mark, but at over two hours,
KNOCKED UP
 felt bloated and overstuffed to me. There are a
lot of extraneous scenes that easily could have
been cut which would have focused the movie
more and made it even funnier. I know I'm in
the minority (again!) on this, but the film goes
off into tangents that are amusing on their own
but which don't really add much to the main
story. (For instance, there's one scene where
Alison has lunch with her mother (played by
Joanna Kerns) that easily could have been
excised, and a misguided road trip to Vegas by
Ben and Pete could have been trimmed.)

The main cast is uniformly excellent with Heigl
and Rogen meshing well as the mismatched
lovers. In contrast, Mann and Rudd do excellent
work as a married couple whose relationship has
become boring and possibly toxic. I was
particularly impressed with Mann (who is
married to Apatow); I had seen her in her early
work and was not impressed with her. Here she
is one of the best things in the film.

Apatow has also tapped into a strong cadre of
comic actors for some of the smaller roles, like
Alan Tudyk as an E! executive and Kristen Wiig
as a tart, jealous co-worker of Alison whose off
the cuff remarks are hilarious. Harold Ramis
does a nice job as Ben's dad, dispensing
unusable advice but telling his son that he was
the best thing that ever happened to him. Tim
Bagley, Mo Collins, B.J. Novak, J.P. Manoux,
Loudon Wainwright, and Ken Jeong are all very
funny as the various gynecologists whom Alison
consults.

KNOCKED UP  mines a vein that has been
tapped before by filmmakers, but which has
rarely been presented with as much warmth and
genuine humor. I just wish that a more judicious
editor (or a stronger producer) had tightened it
up.


Rating:                B-
MPAA Rating:        R for sexual content,             
                            drug use and language
Running time:        132 mins.



 Viewed at AMC 84th Street 6
in KNOCKED UP
Photo Credit: Suzanne Hanover
© 2007 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.