Knocked Up (2007) ***
Directed by Judd Apatow
Based on the two Judd Apatow comedies that I’ve seen so far—Superbad and Knocked Up—I’m beginning to understand this guy’s talent. Apatow has a knack for writing dialogue and inventing characters that a certain type of audience will love. I am not a member of that certain type of audience, and as such, I am finding myself disliking the time I spend watching the people in his films. Yet, both Superbad and Knocked Up ultimately won me over after witnessing both films’ truly inspirational endings. For a guy who seems to enjoy writing vulgar characters that the world would be better off without, Apatow’s films have a great deal of heart. The last fifteen minutes of Knocked Up added a third star to my ranking. The film is over two hours long, and I’ve got to say that I didn’t enjoy the first two hours much at all. I’m going to make a promise to myself at this point—regarding future Apatow films that I will see, it is going to be necessary that the movie works for more than its final few scenes or else I won’t give it more than two and a half stars. Superbad and Knocked Up barely made it to three stars. I’m not going to be that merciful in the future.
Grey’s Anatomy star Katherine Heigl plays Allison Scott, a recently promoted on-air celebrity interviewer on the E! Channel. At the beginning of the film, Ryan Seacrest plays himself in a cameo having an absolutely hilarious hissy-fit! I’ve got to give Seacrest props for his willingness to be such a good sport by poking fun at his image. That night, Allison and her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) go to a dance club to celebrate. Here, Allison meets Ben Stone (Seth Rogen), a goofy stoner with no aspirations in life except to start a website telling the world exactly how long into a film you need to go in order to see an actress nude. Both quite intoxicated, they return to her apartment and have sex. The next morning, Ben, being the dumpy slob that he is, turns her off and she leaves, presumably never to see him again…that is, until she finds out that she’s pregnant with his baby.
He decides to be a part of Allison’s and the baby’s lives, but his slothful, drug influenced lifestyle doesn’t work for this new situation. As such, Ben and Allison’s budding relationship halts for a period of time. Ben is in a place he’s never been before. He has to decide whether or not he wants to change his life in order to accept the responsibility necessary to be a good father and a good boyfriend to Allison.
Much of the first two hours before the obligatory birthing scene at the end consists of many characters with the same sense of irreverent, pot-induced humor. At the beginning of the film, Ben lives with a group of losers who spend their day getting high and proclaiming witticisms about the world, often using extremely vulgar language. I’ve known similar guys in my life, and I’ve never befriended any of them. They’ve never pursued a friendship with me either. I don’t want to make myself out to be better than people like these guys, but I have a steady job, and I don’t get high everyday. I contribute to society, and I’ve grown up to the point where the f-word isn’t in every third sentence that I utter.
Apatow, first of all, has no idea how to write dialogue for women. The ladies in Knocked Up all speak with the same masculine vulgarities. I think that’s what made Superbad work since there are almost no main female characters. Knocked Up is funnier than Superbad, but Superbad is less irritating in its characterizations. I could buy into Ben and his stoner friends talking this way. Yet, when a gynecologist, Allison’s brother in law, Ben’s father and even Debbie’s two young daughters speak in the exact same way, then the screenwriter ought to be blamed. Apatow seems to have a limited number of tricks in his bag, and as such, I’m betting that he only has the ability to make comedies like Knocked Up work successfully.
I’m not criticizing the authenticity of Apatow’s dialogue. Absolutely, there are people that speak the way the characters speak in Knocked Up. The problem is that most grown-ups don’t (and shouldn’t) speak this way. Therefore, when every single character we meet talks like every character we’ve met before, I got tired of it big time! I HATED the scene with Harold Ramis embarrassingly discussing his drug history with his son Ben. Also, I hated the scene where the little girl had to say the word “prick” and giggle afterwards. Speaking of which, the two little girls in the film annoyed me to no end. It’s obvious that someone was feeding them the lines, and every single delivery was given with a goofy smile which showed that these kids had no clue what was going on. Therefore, I think it’s safe to say that Apatow can’t write dialogue for children either—or at least he shouldn’t be allowed to.
All that being said, Knocked Up is a very funny movie in its own twisted way. Not all of the jokes worked on me, but enough did to credit Apatow’s comedic talent. No doubt, he’s a funny guy. I just think he’s representing a very specific adolescent mindset which doesn’t work when it becomes the way that all adult characters are realized. Had Apatow decided not to show Ben growing and maturing throughout the film, Knocked Up would have been an unbearable mess. Yet, I was really moved by the birth and their relationship at the very end of the film. If its juvenile dialogue was muted a bit and its sentimentality emphasized stronger, then I think I would have enjoyed Knocked Up more. Without a doubt, there’s definitely an audience for Apatow’s crude humor, and I’m not part of it. Perhaps Apatow ought to consider that there’s also an audience for his sentimentality, which he writes considerably well.