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Knocked Up

Nicola Mostyn finds Judd Apatow’s bouncing new comedy almost as good as she was expecting

Published on August 28th 2007.

Knocked Up

Alcohol has so much to answer for as Alison Scott (Katherine ‘Grey's Anatomy’ Heigl) discovers when she goes clubbing to celebrate her promotion at E! Entertainment network, dons the beer goggles, cops off with chubby chancer Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) and wakes in the morning to face a stinking hangover and the sight of her one-night-stand’s expansive, pasty buttocks.

In the sober light of day it’s clear that this attractive and successful TV presenter will never contact the bong-loving 23-year-old who looks 33 and acts 13. That is, until eight weeks later when she discovers that she’s pregnant.

Knocked Up is the second film from Judd Apatow, the director and co-writer of The 40 Year Old Virgin, and once again he makes use of a pool of actors who, like the director himself, are becoming synonymous with clever, low key, good-hearted comedy.

But while the brilliant Virgin had Steve Carroll in the title role and was a fairly simple tale of a guy who badly needs to get laid, Knocked Up sees the lesser known Rogan (also in Virgin) taking the lead in a rather more ambitious story of what happens when two seemingly incompatible people are forced to make a life together bonded only by a drunken attraction, a cluster of cells and a mutual ignorance of how the hell to go about having a baby.

Apatow fans won’t be surprised to find that this is a very funny film, with humour that is smart, well observed and beautifully timed, often reminiscent of The Office. The acting also has an appealingly off-the-cuff feel which can be attributed to the fact that apparently Apatow writes only a rough script before casting and then pens the rest around the actors’ voices.

Initially much of the comedy comes from the bickering and camaraderie of Ben’s juvenile housemates, a group of unemployed slackers who sit around all day smoking weed, talking shit and watching movies for their planned internet business: a website which reveals how many minutes into a film an actress gets naked. But humour bubbles constantly through every scene, with even minor roles such as Alison’s unhinged female colleague and a gynaecologist with an attitude problem providing memorable laughs.

And the two leads are charming and likeable in their own right. Katherine Heigl plays it kind, gutsy and bewildered as the woman who decides now is as good a time as any to have a baby and Rogen manages a convincing mix of sweet, selfish and a little bit useless as the waster who might finally take responsibility for something more than a Rizla packet.

It is just their relationship together that sometimes fails to convince. There are so many slacker scenes in the film that it eventually begins to grate slightly, making me wonder if Apatow might not be a little nostalgic for his own weed-smoking days. Moreover, having seen Ben acting the fool with his buddies once too often, it becomes quite a stretch to believe that the stunning, successful Alison would be quite so keen to give it a go with this broke, narcotic-loving no-hoper, even if he has got a heart of gold.

Still, these criticisms fade somewhat when you consider what Apatow is doing right with this movie. The stoner scenes aside, most of the humour hits the mark admirably and, as the film progresses, Knocked Up gains emotional depth, making some serious and heartfelt points about relationships drawn both from Ben and Alison’s attempts to make their unlikely partnership work and from the sub plot concerning Alison’s neurotic sister Debbie (Apatow’s wife, Virgin star Leslie Mann) and her disenchanted husband Pete (the always-brilliant Paul Rudd).

Though it probably goes fifteen minutes past its due date, in that time Knocked Up develops into an astute, well rounded film, posing candid questions about relationships (how much should you change? What should you expect to lose?) that no rom-com ever gets near, delivering more laughs in five minutes than most comedies manage in their entire running time and leaving you with a bracing and brilliant labour scene which entirely refutes my female friends’ claims that there’s nothing funny about giving birth.

Knocked Up is out now on general release

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