KNOCKED UP written and directed by Judd Apatow, with Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann. A Universal release. 129 minutes. Opens Friday (June 1). Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Judd Apatow's career is the ultimate Revenge Of The Nerds fantasy: geeky gifted kid strikes out with high school girls, sharpens his offbeat sensibility in alt projects like The Ben Stiller Show (good), The Larry Sanders Show (better) and Freaks And Geeks (best).
Then he breaks out big time with his feature directing debut, $175-million-grossing comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Look who's laughing now, people. Apatow gives hope to all the guys who got their heads rammed into high school lockers and feared they'd never get the girl.
Knocked Up shows what happens when that unlikely guy, in this case Ben Stone (Seth Rogen), gets the girl.
Ben's an ordinary-looking, slightly bearish guy (like a younger version of Apatow himself) who shares an L.A. apartment and a bong with several other 20-something geeks and misfits. Together they have vague ambitions about creating an Internet site spotlighting the hot nude scenes of hot Hollywood actresses. (The site, still under development, actually exists, which is a nice marketing touch: www. fleshofthestars.com.)
One night at a bar, Ben meets E! Entertainment reporter Alison (Grey's Anatomy's Katherine Heigl), and their drunken one-night stand results in well, you've read the title and seen the clever poster.
Alison wants to keep the baby, Ben agrees to help out with the baby, and - although there's a scene or two missing that would convince us of either decision - the two become a couple.
Meanwhile, Alison's sister Debbie (Leslie Mann, who's Apatow's real-life wife) and her husband, Pete (Paul Rudd), start having marital problems. Maybe family life isn't so great after all.
That's not a terribly original idea. It doesn't come close to the touching sight of Steve Carrell's adorable delayed adolescent. But it's what the lengthy second half of the film recounts, over and over.
The film's not bad; it's smarter than 80 per cent of the comedies out there. Apatow's at his best when he throws together a bunch of men and lets them loose to bluster and brag. It's what made that lengthy "You're so gay " sequence from Virgin so much silly fun. It rang true, in an affectionate way, without a whiff of homophobia.
There are comparable moments here, especially between Ben and Pete, with whom (let's face it) he's got way more chemistry.
I can't help wondering what the script would have been like had Apatow collaborated with a woman. Mann walks off with some choice one-liners, but these are jokes, not character bits. Imagine what someone like Janeane Garofalo, were she a screenwriter, could have added to make Heigl's character more three-dimensional.
It's not the fault of Heigl, a likeable and present actor, but I don't believe a word Alison says. Ironically, Apatow's still that high school nerd. Once he gets time with the popular girl, he doesn't know what to do with her.