Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Who's Your Daddy? Judd Apatow's KNOCKED UP

Now that the trailer, posters and SXSW screening have been announced I think it’s high time to discuss Judd Apatow’s KNOCKED UP, which I saw in rough cut stage (but a very polished rough cut, I must add) at Butt-Numb-A-Thon last December. Plotline couldn’t be less complicated: Loveable loser Seth Rogen has one night stand with beautiful E! hostess Katherine Heigl, she gets pregnant, decides to have the baby and they both deal with the impending issue of parenthood. Add to this her sister (Leslie Mann, Mrs Apatow) and brother-in-law (Apatow regular Paul Rudd) and his loser friends and you have the mix for, well, a Judd Apatow movie. A funny but flawed Judd Apatow movie.

It’s odd to say this because it’s only his second film as a director, but if you say “the new film from Judd Apatow” you understand that there’s already a formula in place, that of the overgrown boy-child forced into dealing with a grown-up issue. I suppose it’s true to say that many great comedies have been about this issue, or at least have been about overgrown boy-men (from the Marx Brothers to ANIMAL HOUSE), but it’s too much of a hindrance here. I couldn’t get it out of my mind that this is pretty much just Apatow and gang doing their thing and not really breaking any new ground. The guys are all overgrown babies; they bust up on each other constantly, get drunk and stoned and try to start a website devoted to celebrity skin. The “change” that the character undergoes is perfectly in line with how these things work and the film doesn’t offer any surprises. I suppose the fact that there have been several similar films about this issue of late (which there seems to be every so often) doesn’t help, but it’s always been the backbone of Apatow’s work: CELTIC PRIDE, THE CABLE GUY (an underrated film), the otherwise genius ANCHORMAN, TALLADEGA NIGHTS and THE FORTY YEAR-OLD VIRGIN all walk this same territory. Hell, HEAVYWEIGHTS (a fun movie) had more maturity to it. There’s also one problem that I could never really get around and that is just what exactly Heigl’s character sees in Rogan. Certainly he’s a fun, funny guy, but I felt like the attraction was nothing more than a plot device. Apatow himself can point to the fact that he’s married to Leslie Mann, but that still doesn’t excuse this issue. Without it there’s no movie.

Taking all this into account, I also have to be completely honest and admit that I laughed quite a bit while watching this movie. The film is loaded with talented folks and the jokes and one-liners usually hit their mark, but I also feel the need to mention that the rest of the audience I saw the film with was enjoying the film even more than I did. I will give the film credit for its casting, which is pretty solid down to many of the smaller parts. All four leads are quite good and have an excellent chemistry and play off each other very well. I was especially surprised by how good Heigl is in the film, but I’m basing that more on her work in UNDER SEIGE 2: DARK TERRITORY, which may be the last thing I saw her in, than on GREY’S ANATOMY, which I’ve never seen. She’s the real surprise here, as she is unexpectedly quite good and very adept at comedy and along with the other leads they really make this work. I also want to give the film props for an extended sex scene between Rogan and the noticeably pregnant Heigl (no, she doesn’t get naked, you pervs) which is something I can honestly say I’ve never seen in a mainstream American movie before. If there’s any one thing I can point to as fresh, even brave, it’s this one scene (perhaps the most memorable in the film) because you never see this kind of thing outside of pregnancy porn and it’s actually refreshing because there’s a point to it. If the film had more moments like it I’d be a bit more on the KNOCKED UP bandwagon, but such is not the case. And to be completely fair, I saw a rough cut, and considering it ran over 2 hours (although – another compliment – it didn’t feel like it) I’m sure that there will be some trims and it may play better when it opens nationally in June. But as it stands KNOCKED UP is a collection of good jokes surrounded by a standard type of movie that I feel like I’ve already seen. As Apatow is yet another TV writer who segues into screenwriting, this is more of an extended adult sitcom than it is a movie. Apatow is a talented joke writer, but like many a talented joke writer once they start to think they’re Billy Wilder (or James L. Brooks, the enemy of all good writing) then all is lost. Apatow’s not there yet, but give him time and he could be.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting review. I saw a screening and thought it was brilliant. Not sure why you would be surprised by Heigl though..she was recently nominated for a Golden Globe she really has the acting chops.