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Can Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow strike gold twice in as many tries? Well I guess you can say they had success together with tv shows “Freaks and Geeks” and “Undeclared,” but then, despite what seemed to be universal love, both got cancelled. It wasn’t until The 40 Year Old Virgin hit that they started becoming household names. With Apatow’s follow-up, Knocked Up, he has brought his old friend out from the shadows and into the spotlight. Rogen definitely has the talent to hit it out of the park, but as far as the film itself striking gold as its predecessor did for me, I have to say it comes up a bit short. Let’s just say it strikes silver.

Our story is one that occurs probably too often in the real world, a one-night stand which produces offspring. We are of course privy to the obligatory abortion sequence, although short and never mentioned in lieu of “smushmortion,” but the real impetus to the movie is these two finding each other and common ground to raise a child. Right from the get go, both leads want the baby and work hard in order to achieve their goal, slowly finding out that they may have real feelings for the other. After recently checking out the fantastic hijinks from the previous Steve Carell film, I expected to be laughing non-stop here. The plot is laced with seriousness, but ripe for satire and hilarity. What ends up happening, however, is that the jokes are merely window dressing for the tale of love conquering all. All the serious issues at play are very much in the forefront and Knocked Up ends up being an entertaining date movie first, uproarious comedy second. This is by no means a bad thing, it just wasn’t exactly what I was anticipating going in. In the end it works to balance the two directions, although somewhat precariously because when the laughs arrive they are huge, only making the serious parts that much more sobering and ultimately a tad boring.

Apatow again succeeds with flying colors as far as scripting a story with heart and realism. He pulls no punches at all and never goes into the realm of shtick or surrealism. You have to applaud the man for going so far as to showing the baby crowning during birth as well as actually giving the mother a slimy child rather than a cleaned off “prop” instead. We are witnessing the relationship between two strangers as they are thrust into each other’s lives. It is absolutely paramount that we see the reality of the situation and understand where each is coming from throughout all their activities and actions. Maybe the lack of Carell co-writing led to the somewhat more subdued end result, but even so, this film is very funny.

Let’s just say that I would pay to watch two hours of Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd in a room riffing with one another alone. Every time these two share screen time is the best moment of the film. Their film quote referencing, Back to the Future and Swingers being some of the best, are classic and the rapport they share is genuine, most is surely ad-libbed. As for the casting of Rogen’s friends, what better way to do so than with his real friends? The foursome all play characters sharing their own first names and the comradery and insults are so spot-on it once again must be mostly improvised. Every sly jab at the one for being in a bet not allowing him to shave is priceless. For him to be the one they are grateful is not a Jew to eventually being thought of as one because of the facial hair is a great evolution— Matisyahu anyone?

As for the rest of the cast, Katherine Heigl truly shines as the woman at the center of it all. Her life is flipped upside down and her emotions run high. I have not seen her in anything else—no I have not watched “Grey’s Anatomy” as of yet—but I have to say I was impressed by her performance. While talking of acting range I will also mention the phenomenal job Rogen did himself. Always being the funny guy coming into scenes, he really needed to step up here and carry the film. His character undergoes a huge transformation during the course of the movie and Rogen makes every moment of it believable. Other credit goes to the entire Apatow family. His wife Leslie Mann is finally given a role she can run with besides the usual ten-minute butt of the joke scenes I’m used to seeing her partake in. Also, their children, playing her children in the film, are immensely funny. Their interactions together in the car and the eldest’s story of where babies come from are quite memorable. Oh and one needs to congratulate Ryan Seacrest with a wonderful bit of self-parody and the other friends popping up like Carell and James Franco.

So, in the end, Apatow delivers a heartfelt tale of love mixed with a good amount of humor, both sweet and broad. While definitely an R-rated feature with many moments of hilarity due to graphic language and or actions, I would still say this is more for the date crowd than the group of friends going out for a Friday night. The laughs are there, and big in most instances, however, the end result is really a romantic comedy when you look closely. It may be the crudest rom-com you’ll see, but it also is one of the more effective ones.

Knocked Up 7/10

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photography:
[1] Seth Rogen as Ben Stone with Katherine Heigl as Alison Scott in Universal Pictures’ Knocked Up – 2007
[2] Paul Rudd as Pete and Seth Rogen as Ben Stone in Knocked Up – 2007

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