Some of the funniest moments we experience in real life are the unintentional ones — sometimes awkward, sometimes embarrassing. Those unique moments are nearly impossible to recreate, and often lost in translation when attempting to convey to another person. It’s times like that which called for the invention of the phrase ‘You had to be there.’
Under the wrong direction, Knocked Up could have easily degenerated into a slap-stick, knee-jerk, comedy — one that plays every scene for the cheap laugh or plays every character for their stereotypical role-response. Fortunately, that’s not the case. Instead, we’re served-up a film in which the characters are fully developed, the situations are nearly devoid of contrivance, and the comedy stems mostly from the awkward realities we all face.
In writer/director Judd Apatow‘s directorial debut, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, he took a character that was barely a pitch for a sketch-comedy, and gave him depth and plausibility. Knocked Up shows, once again, that Apatow has an incredible sense of what makes the simple occurrences in the lives of human relationships important… and funny.
Even the one contrived situation in the movie — jobless pothead Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) scoring with beautiful E! producer Allison Scott (Katherine Heigl), seems natural and more importantly, believable. This allows the audience to accept everything that follows without feeling patronized.
Much like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the supporting cast of characters are at times hysterically funny, but they never give you the feeling that their only purpose is comic relief.
Allison’s bitchy older sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) and brother in-law on the verge of a mid-life crisis Pete (an odd, but perfect role for Paul Rudd) provide the nigh dysfunctional family point-of-view, while Ben’s circle of friends, Jay, Jonah, Jason, and Martin (Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, and Martin Starr … none of whom had trouble remembering their character names, I hope) aptly replicate the typical stoner conclave (don’t ask me how I know this, but it’s true). In another movie they all would probably have remained one-dimensional caricatures, but to the credit of the script, direction, and their respective performances, nearly everyone came off as true-to-life.
Now, the real question you’re asking is ‘Is it funny?’ In short — Hell yes, it’s funny! So much so that at times I laughed over a good portion of dialogue, and found myself having to ask those around me what I missed.
The rapport between Ben, Allison, his pals, and her family is hilarious. Supporting performances by Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters) as Ben’s thrice-divorced dad, and Kristen Wiig (SNL) as Allison’s jealous and passive/aggressive coworker, to name a few, are funny as hell. And guest spots by Steve Carell as himself ‘on-camera,’ and Ryan Seacrest as himself ‘off-camera,’ add some well placed *meta* to the comedy.
And for those of you out there wondering whether or not Seth Rogen, in his first starring role, can carry a film, wonder no longer. He plays average, likable, compelling, and comedic without missing a beat.
So far as the summer movies have gone, Knocked Up easily wins the D3 title of most enjoyable. It has the best character development, the most fully realized plot, and it’s the only one that doesn’t take its target audience entirely for granted.