May 24, 2007


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Knocked Up (R)
A geek procreates in the sweet, dirty, funny Knocked Up, a romantic comedy done the way God intended.

You can keep your When Meg Ryan Met Drew Barrymore movies. I’ll take my romance with a side of panic and vomiting and a heaping helping of Paul Rudd.

Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) is moving on up. She might not have a deluxe apartment — she lives in the guest house of her miserable yuppie sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) and her even more miserable yuppie brother-in-law Pete (Rudd) — but Alison has just received a promotion at E!, where she is now on-camera talent. She and her sister decide to go out to celebrate and, at the club, meet Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) and his friends.

Ben is a man (boy, really) who at 20something has embraced the slacker lifestyle. He lives in a poster-decorated ranch house with his friends, supports himself with the remains of money he won in a lawsuit (his foot was run over by a Canadian post office truck), plans to start a Web site that catalogs movies where you can see your favorite stars naked and smokes pot. Smokes a lot of pot. Smokes pot like most people breathe air.

But on the night that love blossoms for Ben and Alison she’s happy and drunk and he’s flush from a brief feeling of accomplishment that came from getting Alison to talk to him. They end up back at Alison’s house and, due to some confused communication, get it on, au naturale. (They meant to get it on, it’s the sans protection part that wasn’t quite intended.)

Upon waking up the next morning, Alison sees Ben for the sweet but pot-smoking, nude-Web-site-creating shlub he really is and more or less gives him the heave ho. She keeps on heaving and a few weeks later realizes that their one night together has resulted in a pregnancy. Various kinds of panic set in — her bosses wanted her to “tighten” for her on-air job (the politically correct way of telling her to lose weight) and now she stands to gain and quickly; her sister got married when she got pregnant and, two kids later, Debbie and Pete seem miserable, and, most importantly, Ben has no visible means of support or, even, common sense. Alison, who had planned to never talk to Ben again, now finds herself facing a lifetime connection with him.

After some initial freak-out on both their parts, Ben and Alison decide not only to have the baby but to try to be a couple. Despite their many many differences, can they truly find happiness together? Will Ben stop acting like a child before his own kid is born? Will anybody really pay to find out when Meg Ryan is naked in a movie?

As with writer and director Judd Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up shocks you with its sweetness. Yes there’s swearing and booby jokes and pot jokes and ’shroom jokes and marriage jokes and a lot of what one might gather into the broad genre of self-effacing loser humor. But for Knocked Up marriage might be, as Paul Rudd’s character bitterly opines, like an unfunny version of Everybody Loves Raymond that goes on forever but it’s still thing worth fighting for. The movie’s rather innocent nerd world view is that nothing’s as cool as being with the woman who’s having your baby and raising it together.

As the New York Times pointed out in an article in its most recent Sunday magazine, this is about as pro-family values as you can get in a movie that shows, for laughs, three prolonged shots of a baby’s head crowning outside the birth canal (a shot which, in itself, is probably the most effective birth control ever). Though not in any way a family movie (seriously, people, R; do not bring the kids), Knocked Up is very enamored of family, from family of friends to the more serious spouse-and-kids kind. It can be messed up, the movie tells us, but it’s vastly better than the solitary alternative.

And perhaps that’s why, even through I didn’t exactly roll on the floor with laughter at Knocked Up, I still enjoyed it immensely. It’s genuinely funny, genuinely bittersweet, genuinely genuine. Just as with Steve Carell’s character in Virgin, Apatow is able to give us a three-dimensional, relatable hero and surround him with equally flawed people who, ultimately, are all kinda likeable. There is, of all gooey things, heart in his movies. Usually, when the geek speaks from his heart, he gets a punch in the nose. In Knocked Up, he gets applause. B+

Rated R for sexual content, drug use and language. Written and directed by Judd Apatow, Knocked Up is two hours and nine minutes long and will be distributed in wide release on Friday, June 1.