a review by Darryl A. Armstrong
Writer and director – Judd Apatow
Director of photography – Eric Edwards
Editors – Brent White and Craig Alpert
Music – Loudon Wainwright and Joe Henry
Production designer – Jefferson Sage
Producer – Judd Apatow, Shauna Robertson and Clayton Townsend
Universal Pictures. 129 minutes. Rated R for sexual content, drug use and language.
STARRING: Seth Rogen (Ben Stone), Katherine Heigl (Alison Scott), Paul Rudd (Pete), Leslie Mann (Debbie), Jason Segel (Jason), Jay Baruchel (Jay), Jonah Hill (Jonah) and Harold Ramis (Ben’s Dad).
In a summer filled with blockbuster sequels that seem to spin wildly out of control, introducing enough plots and characters to make those mythology diagrams from high school seem simple, who would have guessed a romantic comedy would actually juggle all those elements successfully?Judd Apatow, the creative mastermind behind 2005′s The 40 Year Old Virgin and the cult TV hit series Freaks and Geeks returns with another sex related comedy that’s sure to cause as many controversial discussions as it is laughs.
Everyman slacker Ben Stone (Seth Rogen, in an understated breakthrough role) winds up spending the night of his dreams with the beautiful, career minded Alison Scott (Katherine Heigel, also delivering a powerful performance for a comedy) and winds up making the biggest mistake of his life. Or does he? Given the title of the film, it wouldn’t be a spoiler to say that Ben’s one night of bliss turns out to be the beginning of nine stressful but ultimately joyous nine months.If you have read any reviews of the film, you’ve probably already heard a lot about the films “pro-life” position. After a short scene discussing her options with her mother who recommends an abortion, Alison decides to keep the baby. But the film doesn’t linger on this decision and I don’t think the audience is meant to either.The subject that does get explored in more thorough detail is the relationship between Ben and Alison as they contemplate bringing a child into the world and their possible future together. We see their awkwardness together as two people who barely know each other try to plan and manage a pregnancy and begin a relationship at the same time we see Alison’s sister Debbie (Leslie Mann, director Apatow’s real life wife) struggle with her relationship with her husband Pete (Paul Rudd).
Pete and Debbie have been married for many years, but still struggle understanding each other after having a shotgun wedding themselves. At one point Debbie suspects Pete of having an affair, and without giving away too much, it turns out that Pete is actually engaging in something much more predictable but ultimately just as hurtful to Debbie.
That scene exemplifies just how this movie works and works successfully. It deals with real human emotions, by turns comedic and tragic. It never spirals to far into the darker side of human interaction, but it does acknowledge and take into account human failure and misunderstanding.
The comedic elements are rarely over-the-top, but are often laugh-out-loud funny. At times it delves it crass behavior, but given the characters, not unbelievably so.
For movie and music fans, this film will be a treasure hunt of film and music references to discover. Loudon Wainwright III, along with Joe Henry, provides original music for the film and makes a cameo appearance as the doctor Ben and Alison choose to deliver their child. Pete wears a Tom Waits T-Shirt as he discusses the decline of the music industry. A poster of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind decorates the soon to be born baby’s room.
At this point, I ought to mention that this film touched me on a rather personal level. I recently proposed to my now fiancée, who as of this past week is four months pregnant. As a Christian and a sinner, I feel a sense of bittersweet appreciation for this film. It is encouraging and inspiring that a summer Hollywood film would deal with pregnancy and male-female relationships in such a life-affirming and intelligent manner. But it is also a little disheartening to see many Christian critics blast the film for it’s subject matter.
I am reminded of Philip Yancey’s example in his book What’s So Amazing About Grace? of how much more powerful the good news of the gospel would be if we as Christians could welcome a prostitute into our communion instead of shunning her as a sinner. The simple fact is, we are all sinners and have fallen short of God’s glory. But how we deal with our actions and decisions is how our light will shine to the world. None of us will live sinless lives, but by the Grace of God and our own willingness to show that grace to others, we will be true Christian disciples.
Knocked Up is the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater this year. And it might even make you think about your own life and how you relate to others, a rare enough feat for any Hollywood movie, let alone a comedy.
- Darryl A. Armstrong is an advertising executive and freelance writer who lives in Las Vegas, NV. He is expecting his first child with his fiancée in November.