knocked up (2007)
For the first time in a while, we get a comedy that's not only damn funny, but is heartfelt in a refreshing way that doesn't feel like the phoned-in sham of Wedding Crashers and all of its sub-par ilk. Knocked Up gives us natural laugh-a-minute humor and Apatow's organic approach to the material, plus the references (that, again, feel completely natural) to stuff that's actually happening right now, makes us feel like these characters really live and breathe, maybe just a few houses down from where we live.
And that's really the film's best attribute. We feel as though we're a part of this world that Apatow creates, and we feel as though the events happening in it are actually occurring and not stilted scenarios dreamed up only for the purpose of squeezing out a few laughs. The story has weight to it, but never enough to make the film into something serious, it's all just funny. And the balance couldn't be more perfect. We care about the characters, and Apatow knows it, and so he doesn't feel the need to give us weepy, serious scenes that get "real" for a minute and remove themselves from the comedy, he just keeps on letting the laughs flow. Or at least that's how it looks, like the best directors out there he makes it look easy and natural that all of these things would be occurring, never showing the long hours of dedicated work that went into making it all a reality. There's been genuine affection put into every frame, and in no way has it been churned out for simple yucks. I applaud their efforts. There's been speculation that this will be the new comedy team to replace the "frat pack" of Will Ferrel, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson and Ben Stiller, who for the last 5 years or so have been making most, if not all, of the comedies around. I'm not sure where Steve Carrel fits into all this, since he could technically be considered a part of both, but maybe that's where he'll enjoy a bit more longevity than the others. Although, I don't think Ben Stiller or Will ferrel are going anywhere anytime soon. A part of me wonders which comedy style I enjoy more: Apatow's natural laugh-fest, or the insane hilarity of off-the-wall stuff like Anchorman. A part of me also wonders if the magic employed in Anchorman, easily one of my favorite comedies of the decade, could ever really be captured again. Everyone involved has worked together at least once more since that 2004 flick, but without the same results. The nail in the coffin was last summer's Talladega Nights, where director Adam McKay and Will Ferrel re-teamed to lackluster results. If Apatow can keep from going down the same road we'll be treated to his gems for years to come. What I find so interested about Apatow is the simple look of his films, which may have more to do with his choice of what to shoot on (it looks almost digital, can't be sure though) and the way it reacts to color. I mean the thing looks like it's been shot on a slightly higher-grade DV cam than INLAND EMPIRE was shot on, but common sense says I should know better. But hey, why not? Why not use cheapie equipment to capture these performers doing their best schtick? I mean, the quality of the image means little in a film like this. I sure don't see any reason not to use it, and if this film is a result of that, it's an even better reason to use the DV.
But I haven't even set up the story yet. Well, Katherine Heigl is hot. Katherine Heigl is hot yet somehow kinda desperate. Katherine Heigl gets knocked up by Seth Rogen. Hilariousness happens. The hilariousness is the easy part (or, as I said, that's how Apatow makes it look), but the tricky part is in that second and third sentence of the plot summary. We begin as Katherine Heigl is very hot and somehow end with her being impregnated by a fat stoner who plays too much X-Box. But Apatow makes it all work, and work wonderfully. At least for me anyway, the film's only detractors seem to be female critics who somehow don't appreciate the plausibility of a dopey, yet endearing, guy getting the beautiful, successful girl. I thought it worked great, but I am a guy, so I can't really say. One thing I will say is that the previews really give the story a bad spin, showcasing Rogen's character constantly looking displeased at the thought of spending the rest of his life with Heigl, and showing Heigl's character looking like it's all no big deal. Please. The film itself, thankfully, does not put such a lame storyline into action. Neither one of them are necessarily happy about their new responsibility, but Rogen may actually be more willing to give it a shot than Heigl. That's the reality I'm talking about; of course she doesn't want to be with an unemployed slob, especially when her star is rising in her own career, but they both give it a real shot. It's also been noted many times that the film is a commentary about the lengthened span of "youth" (y'know, where 35 year olds are still convinced they're my age?) and the quickly shrinking gap between children and their parents. And it plays beautifully in the film where the kids are seemingly just as intelligent as the adults that surround them. Makes for some very funny stuff indeed. The supporting cast with Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann is fantastic as well. The two provide some of the most key comedic points of the whole piece, and it's perfect having the married couple from hell to show what our heroes have to look forward to. Of course, Apatow never takes it too far, and only the most organic scenes result from it all. Apatow is really going to be someone to watch in the coming years, comedy has no better hope than in these films that he's making. Honestly, forget about the 90's odd-ball ex-SNL-star pics and Jim Carrey insane (inane?) over-the-top comedies that have greatly overstayed their welcome into the new millenium, and catch something that will hopefully be a style to carry us through the next decade or so. Comedy has hope, and it's in Apatow.
So yes, definitely get out there and see the picture. It is holding incredibly strong at the box office and is looking to be the summer's sleeper hit. No film deserves it more, and nothing else is worth seeing at the moment. This is the film for you if you want to laugh yourself silly and not have to worry about anything else. Sure, lessons are learned in the end, but through comedy, and nothing else. Apatow has yet to announce his next project, but keep an eye out, I can't wait to see what he cooks up next. There's no better way to put it, other than to tell you to check it out, I'm serious, you won't be sorry.