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Apatow does it again - funny, thoughtful and sweet
on 27 December 2007
For those of us who saw The 40 Year Old Virgin and came away wishing that they'd given 'that funny guy with the beard' roles that could have saved Bruce Almighty and suchlike fro mediocrity, Knocked Up is like our prayers getting answered. Rogen is on fantastic form as Ben - a waster seemingly locked in a happy stasis of living off court reparations with a house of similar stoners, playing duel and table tennis, gtting high, and watching movies for nude bits in the hope of setting up an internet lexion of film nudity - the man who has a drunken liason with TV presenter and career gal Alison (Katherine Heigl) and gets her pregnant. The movie's story could be summed up with the phrase 'deal with it' - it is the story of how these two work out their fundamental differences and prepare for the birth.
The film works because Judd Apatow, much like in his movie debut, manages to juggle the vulgar and the sweet, the crass and the romantic, without ever seeming to side to heavily on either side. An 'eurgh' is never too far away from an 'aww' and vice versa. For critics of the film who have suggested that this wouldn't happen - that they'd just go their separate ways - you have to say that had that happened it would have been a pretty short film: guy knocks up girl, girl deals with it on own. The End. No. Instead Apatow looks at the conflict as they struggle to make it work. Unlike most romcom heroes, Ben is a highly flawed character: yes he does have genuine goodwill and yes he does foolish American bumbling very well and comes across as endearing, but he is also a lazy guy who is incredibly scared of growing up and leaving behind his childhood. Again, much like the 40YOV, Apatow has created a field where his central protagonist is a clueless and afraid, and has to make tentative (often hilarious, sometimes tragic) steps into an area that is unknown. Heigl is excellent as Alison, exuding the same sense of comfortability in her role that fans of Grey's Anatomy will be instantly at home with. Her comic timing is perfectly equal to Rogen's and the chemistry between the two is wonderfully awkward. Again it has irritated me that there are those that have criticised the (alleged) lack of chemistry between the two leads. Rogen and Heigl, from their (importantly) drunken encounter, lurch from faux-responsible businesslike brusqueness about the whole thing, to being alternately scared, disappointed in one another, proud, earnest, optimistic, pessimistic - in short every nuance of the rollercoaster of emotion one would expect over those crucial nine months. They are backed up with wonderfully understated turns from Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann.
In short Knocked Up is another Apatow success. It is by turns funny, dramatic, romantic, rude, crude and thought provoking. But it is a romantic comedy - there is no reason to make it the most gritty piece of realism - and so the sugar sweet ending may be forgiven at least if not endorsed. After all, most of Shakespeare's comedies ended up with the 'happily ever after' and he still managed to say a few things about relationships and society. If Judd Apatow is taking a couple of pages out of the Bard's textbook (eve if indirectly) in can hardly be a bad thing can it.