Archive for the ‘Knocked Up’ Category

353 – Knocked Up

November 7, 2007

Knocked Up is one of those movies that seems to get instant cult status, based partly on its pedigree (guys from The 40 Year Old Virgin and recent Will Ferrell movies) and its appeal to twentysomething stoner/slackers. But although some of the jokes are pretty good, and the performances are mostly spot-on, the film’s pretty uneven; the funny parts are mostly funny, but the so-called sincere parts come off as maudlin or treacly.

Ben (Seth Rogen) is the slacker/stoner in question here. He and his not-all-there buds (ha! check out the double meaning) are in the process of launching a website dedicated to finding nudity in mainstream movies. If you immediately said, “What, like Mr. Skin?” you’re in the target audience. So basically, Ben has no job, and neither do the rest of the man-children in his posse.

Contrary to that is Alison (Katherine Heigl of Grey’s Anatomy), an E! entertainment producer-type who’s just been given a shot at working in front of the camera. So she heads out to a club with her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) and winds up hooking up with Ben. Of course, she was drunk at the time – Heigl is a pinup model and Rogen is a fat slob. So you know it’s sort of true to life in that sense.

Fast forward eight weeks later, and Alison’s preggers. Whoopsie daisy. Now how will these two lustbirds reconcile the fact that they don’t really know each other with this impending birth? Or, for that matter, the fact that while sober neither has anything in common with the other?

As I said, scenes that are supposed to be funny usually work, because Rogen is just doofy enough to pull it off; the film works when it pokes fun at Ben’s slacker proclivities or the idiosyncrasies of his friends. It doesn’t work so much in the way the women are portrayed, however. Look, we’ve all enjoyed movies in which women are mere objects, right? Porky’s, I’m looking at you! Done right, that sort of approach can be raucously entertaining. But in this movie, the womenfolk alternately come off as wildly bitchy or just humorless. Alison was never really shown to have much of a sense of humor (although there’s one scene in which she helps the boys spot nude scenes in films for their website).

That’s all well and good regardless, because some movies can manage to have “bad” female characters off of which the males can play. But that’s where the schizophrenia of this movie comes into play; is it a low-brow, misogynistic comedy or a relationship movie? Too often, it opted for the latter, and if you’re trying to show the trials and tribulations of two crazy kids who aren’t even in love with each other, you shouldn’t make one of them unlikable and irrational. Even if, you know, that’s how it’d be in real life.

Judd Apatow, who brought us similarly flawed The 40 Year Old Virgin, compares the burgeoning Ben-Alison relationship to the marriage of Debbie and Pete. Oops, looks like Pete’s an inconsiderate jerk! Looks like Debbie’s an overreacting, hyperactive nitwit! Of course, Apatow’s not saying theirs is the ideal relationship for which Ben and Alison should strive, but he makes it seem as if just having an relationship is a bad idea.

And I know I might be in the minority here, but I’ve never liked humor that serves only to humiliate someone. So when Ben or Alison launches a profanity-laced attack on the other, that’s not funny. It’s not even entertaining. It’s annoying.

(Another recurring theme was that Debbie feels unappreciated. Check out the scene in which she and Alison are turned away from a club – Alison because she’s pregnant and Debbie because she’s, um, old. Leslie Mann is two years younger than me, it should be noted; anyway, the scene is presumably supposed to show the sisters bonding over their respective rejections, but all it did was show Debbie as whiny.)

One plus, though – good to see Alan Tudyk (Wash from Firefly) getting some work; here, he’s Alison’s boss. His rotten-bitch-sycophant assisant has to go, though. She, like some of the other secondary and tertiary characters, was just thoroughly obnoxious and useless – not funny in the biting, sarcastic way, just caustic and off-putting.