The comedic concept of Judd Apatow's 40-Year-Old Virgin may never again be topped, but Apatow, today's King of Comedy, actually managed to make Knocked Up a better movie.
Knocked Up barely meets the "romance" quota that qualifies it as a romantic comedy, but fear not, fellasit's mostly comedy, and of the highest grade. The movie centers around two twentysomethings who couldn't be more different: gorgeous, careful, career-minded Alison (Katherine Heigl) and beastly, reckless, foggy-minded Ben (Seth Rogen). After a promotion at her job working for the E! network, Alison decides to cut loose for one night and celebrate. She and her sister (Leslie Mann) go out to a local club where they meet Ben and his stoner friends (Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill and Martin Starr). One drink leads to another and before long, Alison is drunk enough to take Ben home and into bed. Eight weeks later Alison is singing the morning-sickness blues, and sure enough, pregnancy test after pregnancy test confirms her worst fear: bun in the oven...from a one-night stand...with a guy who repulsed her when she saw him through sober eyes. So she decides to tell manchild Ben that he knocked her up and it changes everythingwell, sorta.
Meet Seth Rogen, this year's Steve Carell Award winner for Breakout Star and Best Unknown Lead. Of course, neither Carell nor Rogen was truly unknown before his respective breakoutRogen, it could be argued, really broke out in last year's 40-Year-Old Virgin alongside Carellbut the Everyman appeal and unlikely ascension to stardom between the two are similar. As with Virgin, Rogen is hilarious, primarily with the delivery of the absurdity he spews. And not only does Rogen display a surprising soft-ish side when necessary, he projects something so relatable that you'll swear you've had a Ben in your circle of friends at one point. The glue of the onscreen relationship and chemistry is Heigl. The Grey's Anatomy star shows that she's much more than a pretty face, convincingly going hormonal as hell while improving upon the comedic chops she hinted at in the god-awful The Ringer. Mann, writer/director Judd Apatow's real-life wife and the only other source of estrogen in the movie, is very much game for the pot(ty mouth) humor, but it's Paul Rudd, as Mann's cynical husband, who seems to be Apatow's comedic muse. Already a member of the Frat Pack, it's only a matter of time before Judd makes Rudd his lead.
Judd Apatow has been working for much longer than most people care to realize, but he finally made a splash (read: box office hit) with last year's Virgin, and Knocked Up solidifies him as the one to beat when it comes to comedy. Apatow combines certain elements that make his style reign supreme. First and foremost is a distinct note of improvisation that makes his actorsmany of whom he repeatedly employsfeel at home and thus his audiences do as well. Then there's his affection for the underdog, which is no doubt how he sees or once saw himself. It not only endears him to his ever-growing fan base, it's a theme that grows on you throughout the course of his movies (namely his last two), convincing you that sometimes the good guy CAN get the girl. Knocked Up builds on both themes: The actors seem like they sat around with Apatow, took one toke too many, and started riffing on each other and pop culture; and Rogen is certainly Apatow's underdog, a nod to underdog dreamers everywhere and to comedy by implying, "Would it be funny if the movie was George Clooney trying to woo Katherine Heigl?" He caps it off in mature, real-world fashion to mimic his protagonist's arc by throwing in some sentimentality. It's effective and seems credible, which sums up all of Apatow's work.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.