Judd Apatow gets guys. For years men in movies have been cookie cutter presentations of ferocious might or sensitive driveling. In his movies, Apatow brings a different breed of man: one who falls between the stereotypes of the sensitive man and the ubermensch and paints a complete picture of just how complex men can be.
Nowhere is this more true than in Apatow’s latest flick, Knocked Up. The 40-Year Old Virgin director tackles the worst nightmare for the single man – having a one night stand with a girl and then finding out that you’ve knocked her up. It’s a simple enough concept for a story, but thanks to Apatow’s delightfully complex characters and hilariously irreverent approach to the subject matter, Knocked Up runs the chance of being one of the most brilliant comedies of the decade.
Seth Rogen, who was one of The 40-Year Old Virgin’s highlights, takes center stage for Knocked Up, playing the epitome of irresponsibility and young male foolishness. Ben Stone (Rogen) lives in an apartment with four of his friends, smoking pot and insulting each other. His only prospective income is from a website he and his friends are putting together that lists when celebrities get naked in movies. For someone like Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl), a successful up and coming reporter for E! Television, Ben would be the last choice for a boyfriend, let alone someone to have a kid with. Yet after the two hook up after a drunken meeting in a nightclub, that’s exactly the position they find themselves in.
The idea of suddenly and surprisingly being pregnant has been done before in movies like Nine Months so it’s not the most original concept. In fact, the situation is practically cliché fodder for sitcoms. In Apatow’s capable hands, however, the plot becomes a way to shed some light on the male psyche and show that we aren’t all dick and fart jokes… although that certainly makes up part of who we are. Rogen’s character is joined by a smorgasbord of previous Apatow actors, including Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, and Martin Starr, as they make stupid wagers and carry on pointless conversations stoned out of their minds. Before the stoner humor can wear too thin, Ben starts buddying around with Alison’s brother in law, Pete (Paul Rudd), who Apatow uses to reveal some of man’s biggest fears and problems with being married with children.
Considering the nature of Ben’s personality, crude humor is prevalent through the picture, but somehow it’s an endearing trait for the character. Between pranks, like farting on each other’s pillows, there are some poignant moments about how these characters view life; moments audience members will be able to connect with. Rudd’s Pete compares life to an endless episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” without the humor. Ben goes off on a tirade about how women have been giving birth to babies for centuries without the damn “how to” books out there he’s being harassed for not reading. Apatow shows an absolute mastery for balancing humor and drama, never letting the weight of the story become pervasive, but always keeping the idea in mind that the subject matter is serious. These are people bringing another life into the world after all.
The only thing keeping Knocked Up from becoming an instant classic is how dated the movie already is, even in its release. There are pop culture references every couple of minutes and, as culture changes, those references will become obsolete and some parts of the movie may lose meaning. Apatow did his best to keep those references as up to date as possible, including the characters gong to see Spider-Man 3, which has only been in theaters for a month, but the movie will inevitably be dated. Still, Knocked Up is the strongest movie from Apatow so far and definitely the best comedy this year.