Stars: ** 1/2
Rating: R for sexual situations, profanity and nudity
Run Time: 2 hours, 8 minutes
“Knocked Up” comes with the kind of built-in buzz you can’t buy, courtesy the near cult-following of director Judd Apatow’s “The 40 Year-Old Virgin”.
Apatow plays it characteristically simple. Luscious E! News reporter Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) celebrates her new promotion by getting smashed at a local bar. Where she meets Ben Stone (Seth Rogen), a perma-loser whose short-term career plan is launching the website fleshofthestars.com, a comely counting of cinematic nude scenes.
Ben lives with his pubescent roommates, each more arrestedly developed than the next, while Alison has bigger fish to fry. Not a match made in heaven.
Naturally Alison gets knocked up when the pair hook up in a frenzy of itchy lust and bar fumes. The premise is…you will forgive the pun…pregnant with possibility when it focuses on the mismatched duo struggling with the concept of parenthood and taking baby steps towards an awkward acquaintance. Alison’s repeated meetings with the E! brass are a sharp study in comic subtlety.
There’s a downside. Maybe I’m getting old (another downside) but adolescent posturing posing as humor doesn’t work for me. Unfortunately Apatow’s “strengths” lie in juvenile comedy and the film repeatedly cuts to secondary story lines that dumb down the funny. Ben and his buddies’ sophomoric antics; rude, crude and lewd. Alison’s cranky sister Debbie (real life Apatow wife Leslie Mann) haranguing her restless hubby Pete (Paul Rudd).
But I laughed, yes I laughed. Vulgarity jockeys with sensitivity and there are deeply funny, almost warm, moments that speak to truths of life and love. Brush aside the crude formula and bathroom humor and you’ve got yourself a surprisingly delicate social commentary that’s guaranteed to be this summer’s comic hit.