Can lightning strike twice? Or is Apatow going to hit the sophomore slump?
Knocked Up is writer/director Judd Apatow's long-awaited, highly-hyped follow-up to his breakthrough 2005 hit The 40-Year-Old-Virgin. And the question on everyone's lips is: Can it possibly live up to the standard that Virgin set? Was it just a fluke, or is Apatow a comic force to be reckoned with?
Well Apatow fans, you can let out your sigh of relief now. Because I can tell you in no uncertain terms that yes indeed, Knocked Up is every bit as funny as The 40-Year-Old Virgin. There is no sophomore slump in sight.
Of course, anyone who has followed Apatow's career probably won't be surprised. After all, he wrote and directed the critically-acclaimed (although short-lived) TV show Freaks and Geeks, wrote for The Larry Sanders Show, and perhaps most tellingly, was a producer on Anchorman and Talladega Nights. So it shouldn't come as a shocker that Apatow is a talented director--he's directing his own work, after all.
Knocked Up tells the story of Ben and Alison. Ben (Seth Rogen) is a good-hearted slacker who is trying to get a pornographic website off the ground with his equally mediocre friends. Mostly, they just all sit around their dirty, Salvation-Army-esque bachelor pad smoking pot and cracking dirty jokes at one another.
One night, Ben meets the beautiful Alison (Katherine Heigl) at a Los Angeles club where she has gone with her sister to celebrate her promotion at work. One thing leads to another and 8 weeks later, Alison discovers her one-night stand with the shlubby but funny Ben has left her pregnant. Incredibly, the two decide to make a go of it for the baby's sake, but can such an ill-fated couple really last?
It is to Apatow's credit that a storyline so devoid of surprises (hello, the movie is called Knocked Up) can be so fun and engaging to watch. This is largely because the man simply knows funny when he sees it, and he gives his actors' ample opportunity to plumb all possible comic depths.
In describing Apatow's approach to filmmaking, Rogen quoted Harold Ramis (who has a cameo as Ben's father in Knocked Up), who said of his own approach to Ghostbusters: "the script is the worst case scenario. The script is what we have if we can't think of anything better." That is to say, Apatow encourages his actors to improv, and has no qualms about running the camera for hours on a single scene if it means getting the best footage. Not that, I suspect, the original scripts themselves are too shabby. But by casting great comedic actors and giving them their head, Apatow winds up with a product with humor that is head and shoulders above nearly everything else out there.
Apatow's dedication extends to even the smallest characters in Knocked Up; the ample cameos and supporting roles (like Alison's bosses, Jack and Jill, played by Alan Tudyk and Kristen Wiig) are all given their chance to shine. As a result, Knocked Up is a funny, rich movie with characterization that is atypically deep for what is essentially a bawdy comedy.
Heigl (Grey's Anatomy, Caffeine) is a newcomer to Apatow's pack, but she holds her own. Rogen is absolutely perfect casting for his part, and Leslie Mann (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Big Daddy) and Paul Rudd (C