I just became a Seth Rogen fan. Just right now, I did. I've been peripherally aware of this guy, having seen him in miniscule parts in ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY, YOU, ME & DUPREE, and, most notably, THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN. But, here in KNOCKED UP, he takes lead actor honors and he's wonderful. See this movie for the other actors, as well - Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, and Leslie Mann all shine - but, in my eyes, this is a cinematic coming out party for Seth Rogen. And, if nothing else, this chubby guy gives hope to uncool, unhandsome, plain folks like me. So, yay.
This is the story of Ben and Alison. Ben (Seth Rogen) is a laid-back and unemployed teddy bear of a guy who whiles away his time smoking weed and, with his slacker buddies, striving to construct a celebrity skin website (that these guys are unaware of the Mr. Skin site, already in place, seems far fetched). In a club, he bumps into out-of-his-league Alison (Katherine Heigl), a gorgeous career girl celebrating a promotion. Booze is poured, a spark is ignited, and Alison and Ben hook up. As sometimes happen, the next morning opens with hangovers and regrets and a butt-crack. Alison gets a good, sober look at Ben, who then doesn't help his case by throwing up and then championing the merits of post-drunk vomiting. Disgusted, Alison departs; Ben knows he goofed and assumes that that was that. But, 8 weeks later, Ben hears from Alison, who drops the news that she's expecting. And, because Ben is innately a good guy and Alison a fairly open-minded girl who doesn't want to do this alone, they make a go of being together.
This flick is a cheerful, very funny 2-hours-plus worth of sit down time and definitely offers more than its ANIMAL HOUSE tendencies would have you initially believe. My gut feeling is that the folks involved in the making of this film had true affection for it, especially Director/Writer Judd Apatow. KNOCKED UP lays down consistent humor foraying into occasional bawdiness. The film did startle me with its display of genuine emotion and heart. I was prepared to be content with cardboard people and cheap laughs. Instead, underneath the bawdy trimmings, the unaffected, heartfelt core of the film surfaced and made me invest in the characters beyond a superficial level. I really liked the characters. Too, the rampant crudity and lewdness of the film are balanced by a humorous yet sensitive depiction of a marriage quietly on the rocks, which, with all the insights given, actually feels like a real marriage.
Alison's older sister Debbie and Pete have been married for a while now and are raising two beautiful daughters. But life isn't like the movies, and Debbie and Pete, well-meaning people both, have problems. Debbie as played with delirious, high-strung brittleness by Leslie Mann is one of those pushy, righteous people who eventually gets under your skin, but she's not a bad person. Paul Rudd is comic gold as Pete, the fount of masterfully sly and dry comments, who can mostly tolerate Debbie's harangues but only if he gets the occasional alone time. Their not-quite-rosy relationship is plentifully plumbed, giving rise to spousal suspicions and bickerings and possibly previewing what the future holds for Alison and Ben. Too, Alison and Ben end up choosing sides as Alison is strictly with her sister while Ben espouses Pete's side. This puts a decided crimp in their own relationship.
Of course, this movie hinges on the leads' ability to generate interest and invoke sympathy from the viewer. And, let's face it, who wouldn't want Ben Stone for a buddy? Or Seth Rogen, for that matter? Ben is so good natured and easy going that I challenge anyone to not root for him and his maturation process. One of my favorite scenes is when he finally confronts Debbie. His chemistry with Heigl is apparent on screen; I can actually see this smoking hot girl being pals with and then falling for the prospectless, chubby but appealing loser, although, naturally, beer and possibly many shots of tequilla would have to be involved. Katherine Heigl had already turned my head with her performances in ROSWELL and THE RINGER. Here, much respect goes to Katherine as she shrugs off dignity and dives right into the thick of things. But, you know what, even when ignominiously suffering thru morning sickness, throwing hormonal hissy fits, or giving alarmingly painful birth, she maintains her full babefulness. As Alison,she comes across as an authentic person with an array of valid fears and insecurities. Katherine Heigl's good. And smoking hot.
The supporting players sparkle. Credit as a whole goes to Ben's insult-tossing cast of nowhere-headed pals, who may be hapless but are there for Ben. Two standouts are Ken Jeong as the strict and precise Asian doctor and SNL-er Kristen Wiig as some sort of network executive, she of the snide and off-the-wall verbal asides ("This is Hollywood. We don't like liars."). Because Alison works for the E! network, we're treated to several cameos of famous folks playing themselves. Ryan Seacrest's lampooning of himself is a blast and it makes me like him a bit better.
I like to laugh and KNOCKED UP doled out laughter in multiple servings. Much of the humor is of the juvenile sort as a sizable chunk of the film is dedicated to the slacker amigos mercilessly bagging on each other. Your enjoyment of these jokes will depend on your pop-culture I.Q. (for example, do you know who Serpico is?). One guy who undertakes a shaving bet is incessantly strafed with facial hair insults ("Scorcese on coke" "Your face is like Robin William's knuckles."). Be advised that there are moments here of THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY or AMERICAN PIE proportions. But, in the midst of the pot humor, the DeNiro impressions, and the scatalogical stuff, there's an unfeigned sweetness and moments of honest soul searching which resonate clearly, and, gullible goofball that I am, I was charmed. Don't be fooled by the raunchy and "modern" conventions here; this film is firmly centered on family values. Ben Stone might be an adult at 23 years old, but this is still a coming of age story.
In his first lead role, Seth Rogen emerges as the genial, scruffy heart of the film. Now that he has it, here's hoping he can sustain his leading man status. If the ungainly Jack Black can do it, why not Seth, who's more lovable and cuddly? But there are other actors in the film. Heigl, Rudd, and Mann do great being witty and poignant, argumentative and loving, and real. KNOCKED UP allows both genders to have their moments. In terms of who's funny, Rogen and Rudd definitely come through, but Heigl and especially Mann deliver their ample share of levity. Just wait for the scene with the stressed Debbie having a brutal yet uproarious conversation with the nightclub doorman. The movie also has that something which lesser films would kill for, which is chemistry among its stars. Chemistry abounds, between Rogen and Heigl, between Mann and Rudd, between Rogen and Rudd. So, yeah, there's all kinds of reasons to go see KNOCKED UP. The guys have the dirty, smutty humor and the smoking hot babes; for the girls, there's the pregnancy arc, a nice, unforced romance, as well as the sibling relationship of Alison and Debbie. Oh, and, apparently, Paul Rudd is a clever hunk and Seth Rogen is immensely huggable. But, me, I saw this to learn the dice move.