Knocked Up – 2007
Written and Directed by Judd Apatow
Starring Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Charlene Yi, Jason Segel, Martin Starr, Iris and Maude Apatow, Kristin Wiig, Bill Hader, Alan Tudyk, Harold Ramis, Joanna Kerns, Craig Robinson, B.J. Novak
The first thing that one notices when re-watching Knocked Up for the first time is the sheer amount of talent that is on the screen. It’s not a real graceful talent, but the cast has pretty much dominated the comedy scene since it was released. A prime example would be Wiig, who has less than 5 minutes of unforgettable screen time, and she is about 15 down the credits list.
At the time Heigl was a rising star on a deplorable (even by her own account) show, Grey’s Anatomy and Rogen was fresh off another Apatow comic masterpiece, The 40 Year Old Virgin.
“Life doesn’t care about your vision…” says Ben’s (Rogen) father, Harris (Ramis) “Just roll with it, that’s the beauty of it all.”
In the midst of the talk about whether or not to “keep it,” the above statement is tossed off in a seemingly errant fashion. That is the thing about Apatow’s writing ability. He understands the significance of life is not in grand moments, rather, a collection of smaller, sweeter moments, including a series of videos of the child in each stage of its growth. This gives gravity to the situation that so many people want to ignore and make the characters much more appealing. These moments are perfectly accompanied with many moments of laughter and sadness.
“He’s playing fetch with my kid,” says Alison’s (Heigl) sister, Debbie (Mann) to her, while watching Ben’s pathetic attempt at playing with Debbie’s kids.
The look on Debbie’s face says even more than her voice. Leslie Mann’s role, along with Rudd’s Pete as her husband, give an essential ballast to Ben and Allison. They are the glimpse of a future. So crucial are the scenes between the older couple and their kids (played by Mann and Apatow’s own children, Iris and Maude) it helps to make much of what is unsaid between the younger couple.
“What changed for you,” says Debbie, in response to Pete’s response to a seemingly flippant statement, “What went out the window. What plans. You do everything exactly the same.”
The conversation veers from this point, and it goes into two directions, each of them real from the perspective of their gender. It’s funny, apt and kind of scary. There are so many differences between men and women, it’s amazing they ever get together in the first place. This leads into a segue where Debbie thinks Pete is cheating on her. Even though he’s not, it doesn’t help. Feeling like he has to lie to get away reveals a lot about what they are missing. He’s so worried about losing free time, he is almost willfully ignorant of the fact that his partner loses more than he.
This dovetails directly into the films’ big moment of crisis. It hits on so many levels, it cannot help but feel real.
“How did anyone ever give birth without a baby book?”
It could be a valid point, were it not for the fact that Ben’s behavior is moving in the same direction as Pete. Allison sees the same thing and makes a decision that needs to be carries as much logic as it does emotion.
Ben’s friends make a boorish version of a Greek Chorus. Baruchel, Seigel, Hill and Starr could have made a movie in and of themselves with Rogen, and it would have been funny as hell. The pink eye scene in and of itself would be funnier than any scene in most comedies.
Same can be said as Mann and Heigl. Rogen and Rudd, too. The key to Apatow is his ability to take many threads of what could have been good movies on their own and merge them into one super movie.
Ben: “Do you think they’ll take us back?”
Pete: “Yes, but I don’t know why.”
It’s a wonderful thing to see Apatow and his magnificent cast explore why. Heigl has never been better, and with her recent retirement, it’s a safe bet it will stay this way. Rogen didn’t have to stretch too far in his role…at least not until the end. Mann and Rudd nearly steal this movie. It is no surprise that the sequel was pushed in their direction. Even so, I can’t help but feel there will be much more to it than just Debbie and Pete.
(***** out of *****)