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Almost Grown: Judd Apatow's Knocked Up

The Stop Smiling Film Review

(Universal)

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Friday, June 01, 2007

By Nick Pinkerton

Knocked Up
Directed by Judd Apatow
(Universal)

The template for big-numbers success in American screen comedy, as established a decade ago in the twin box-office landslides of There’s Something About Mary and American Pie: over-the-latest-top raunch supplementing wide-eyed, naïve emotionality. The new reigning master of the form is Judd Apatow, whose 40-Year-Old Virgin treated its premise-title with absolute earnestness when it wasn’t loading the film with enough boner gags and just-us-guys bullshitting to diffuse accusations of dishonest sentimentality. Knocked Up, Apatow’s sophomore feature, furnishes a much-deserved leading role to Seth Rogen, one of his faithful supporting players, primed for stardom from his early days on Apatow-produced sitcoms Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. It’s a piece of casting that’s a little coup unto itself — the tubby, woolly-headed goof of a buddy is a familiar enough romantic comedy trope (see Rogen himself, doing journeyman work in You, Me, and Dupree), but trusting that guy to command the center stage nearly passes for profound subversion amidst the intellectual aridity of contemporary industrial moviemaking.

Rogen is Ben Stone, an adrift 23-year-old living in suburban LA off the leftovers of a decade-old accident settlement, sharing a junky house with four other unemployed, perpetually stoned expat Canucks (Jason, Jay, Jonah and Martin, played, respectively, by Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill and Martin Starr) all staving off the comedown of adulthood, one bong-rip at a time. Ben’s crisis comes wrapped in the guise of a miracle: On a routine night of club-hopping and binge-drinking with his posse, he picks up a receptive smile from Alison (Katherine Heigl), a statuesque entertainment TV employee several divisions out of his league who’s on the town to celebrate her matriculation to on-camera work. Copious beers and shots, along with Ben’s natural amiability, combine for a remarkably alchemic fission, and the two have a one-night-stand. The following morning’s disastrous attempt at a breakfast would seem to preclude any attempt at a follow-up, until eight weeks later a pregnancy test comes up with unanticipated results, and the two decide to have a go at making a family. (The concept is faintly sitcomic, but nevermind.)

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