Sunday, July 22, 2007

Movie Review: "Knocked Up"

Written and Directed by Judd Apatow

Seth Rogan
Katherine Heigl
Paul Rudd
Leslie Mann
...and a lot of other funny people

"Knocked Up" is an old fashioned 'smarmy' love story/movie; set in a sexually more explicit, more juvenile, and more grossed-out time; today. (The writer/director is quoted on imdb as saying: "Its hard to shock America these days." Not quoted is why he feels the necessity to do it...beyond $$$. The film combines the age-old question of: how does a woman make a man more responsible (i.e., committed to a relationship); while we, the audience concomitantly watch the same guy go through the leave taking of buddies; or we in a generation half century ago phrased it: 'Those Wedding Bells are Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine'. (Nothing if life changes; just the context.)

Overt sex jokes are manifold in this film, certainly more than than a 'boy-meets-girl' film of fifty years ago...or even twenty years ago...a sign of the times, no? What doth tomorrow bring? If I were a betting an, I'd say funny bestiality.

I agree with Mr. Apatow; its hard to shock America...but the leading lady, Ms. Heigl from Grey's Anatomy, never lets us see a specific shocking portion of her anatomy...specifically her breasts (although other's do). Her agent's decision? Perhaps she herself is 'old fashioned? Is her mother and father still alive? Breasts--hers--are not shocking enough? Too shocking?) By the way, the 'cute meet' in this story, where the boy first meets the girl, is a 'hook up' scene. Lots of shocking and un-shocking bed-bouncing between Mr Rogan and Ms. Heigl there.

This exercise moves quickly to the initiating crisis of the story/plot: her unexpected pregnancy, which leads to her decision to have the baby; which leads to their mutual try at a serious relationship, which leads to more sex. Intermittent throughout all the 'relationship' stuff are 'fart, shit and masturbation' jokes; gynecological exams; doctor jokes...and finally, birthing...fairly graphically presented as is everything else in the film; and the brother-in-law cheats on his wife...a a twist..with something more threatening than an affair: he is secretly (to his wife anyway) into fantasy baseball trading.

Let's face it: the pill (and condoms...and abortion...and the OK-ness of single motherhood) has freed contemporary generations all of the most threatening nature of sex (although this film attempts to underscore contemporary irresponsibility by offering "the exception proves the rule". What we watch in this film...with comedic attack...are average irresponsible adults-acting-like-children...and getting pregnant and wanting the child and trying then to grow up and become a responsible man...and woman...and find the commitment of love! As I said, Apatow's film is smarmy; and that is not all bad.

It was a nice, sweet, film; a bit slow; but I did not laugh as much as I thought I would entering te theater. It is somewhat funny (smiley) in a juvenile sort of way, precocious and clever (although there were not many laughs in the theater the day I saw it). I have great respect for the writer/director, Mr. Apatow. He is a fine craftsman. But if the film is not as funny as his predecessor ('brought to you by the people who did...) and stable-mate, "The 40 Year Old Virgin". Nonetheless it is still a cute little gem in a year of fake jewels. Mr. Apaow was once exec-producer on "Freaks and Geeks". He now makes films--at least the above mentioned--about freaks and geeks swimming through average waters.

The writing is: "I know how to press all the buttons", clever-but-also-cliche sort of writing (funny but not sophisticated: joke-y, not witty...and the ending is predictable). The acting is excellent throughout. All the actors are 'right on' (comically)...and when an ensemble is that uniformly positive--as all performances are in this film--you have to give credit the writer/director. The fish stinks from the head first, right? when it smells like perfume, you have to compliment the head! (Comparison-shopping wise, Paul Rudd as the brother-in-law stands out for me as the best actor in the piece, although he didn't have an ostensibly showy role, it was a hard role; and he pulled it off excellently. The others, Rogan, Heigl and Mann are not far behind in excellence.)

For me, the funniest scene in the movie is: the two leading ladies being denied special early-entrance into a nightclub which they earlier had succeeded in getting to the head of the line. When they complain, the Black Bouncer tells them with deep sympathy that he can't let them ahead of others because they are old and pregnant, and therefore fail the hotness test. The scene is funny because it is so darkly a witty, poignant sort of way. The Bouncer justifies his rejection by telling them he even has to obey management's 5% quota on black entrances also, even though he is black. He's as much a victim of management as they are. Hotness and race prejudice; unfair but...a job is a job.

The film is successful. And a commercial hit. And rightfully so. I think its successful...and deserves is $$$$grosses...because the target audience is juvenile...12 to 36 to 66...and we are a culture fixated on our own need for youth...and that is what the whole film is about: a 'juvenile-ish' refusal...worse even, an incompetence, to accept adult responsibility. The audience looks in the mirror...sees itself...and laughs. Who knows...maybe its the start of hot adultness!


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