After the initial hilarity of every-man Seth Rogen actually hooking up with unattainable-girl Katherine Heigl, the film boasts a genuine honesty and realism that lets R-rated hilarity ensue from the truth instead of mere spectacle.
After Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) receives a promotion to put her in front of the camera for a cable news magazine, she and her older sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) go out to celebrate. Enter Ben Stone (Seth Rogan), a guy getting by on a dwindling cash settlement and living with four other guys starting up a long-shot web site venture. After Debbie is recalled home by her estranged husband Pete (Paul Rudd), Alison and Ben make the most of the night out with a few more drinks and an intimate encounter. Eight weeks later after Alison starts feeling sick at work, the truth comes out, and the reluctant parents are left thinking what everyone thinks when these things happen: now what?
From the people (and several of the same actors) that made The 40-Year Old Virgin such a success comes the story of unfortunate and not-so unfortunate circumstances when bringing a child into the world. From friend and family pressures to career goals and adult responsibilities, Knocked Up explores the extreme edge of such a reality and how everyone involved reacts to it. It is also an amusing exploration of being married with children (without being Al or Peg Bundy) and of the assumptions couples make before and in the middle of a relationship.
One key scene provides the concept and tone for the drama that the comedy derives from. The husband is caught in a lie by his wife, but the nature of the lie was to protect his wife’s feelings and not himself. While the menfolk all agree he should be credited for his intentions and gain the wife’s understanding, the women are outraged that any secret should be kept, even if it means being chastised for feeling that way. Who’s right? Is it any wonder that relationships must endure the great communication gap of the sexes with questions like this? One person trying to hold a relationship together can’t do it alone, and watching someone let loose the string of feelings they’ve kept bottled up to spare the other is both scary and hilarious at the same time. It’s real, more meaningful, and even funnier for those who’ve been there and survived it.
The watchable cast of core characters moves the story along quickly. Katherine Heigl’s comedic timing is perfect even though she’s mostly cast as the straight man to everyone else’s patter, taking the laugh up a notch just with a facial expression. Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd play off each other with same frat boy banter that made them so watchable in The 40-Year Old Virgin, culminating in a Las Vegas male-bonding scene that even makes fun of the chairs in the hotel suite. Leslie Mann embodies all that men fear in a wife even before she starts making outrageous accusations, but she also manages to hint at the softer side that netted her man to begin with. Even the gaps between key scenes are filled a string of Hollywood celebrities (because it’s set in Los Angeles) being a little more honest than expected off camera.
Between product placements for Spider-Man 3, Google, and E! television, there’s a great comedy in here. Rage is always funny (although less so if actual bloodshed follows), and learning about the secret lives of others is always a disturbing look behind dark curtains happily used for laughing and pointing at others. The biggest laughs in Knocked Up come from some of the darkest most secretive places, so not everyone is going to see the obvious humor in this film, especially if they can’t laugh at themselves. For all the rest of us, with friends and families like these pointing out your shortcomings, who needs enemies?
(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)