“Knocked Up” director Judd Apatow gave his wife, Leslie Mann, and their two young daughters, Iris and Maude Apatow, important supporting roles, and the three pretty much walk away with the movie.
San Francisco native Mann plays Debbie, a prim-proper-and-funny control-freak wife, channeling an anachronistic presence from the 1950s, the two kids are her spirited and uncontrolled children; add a loving but unhappy husband (Paul Rudd) and there you have the “model family” against which the unusual romance of Ben (Seth Rogen) and Alison (Katherine Heigl) takes place.
Ben is the most unlikely leading man of recent times, never mind a romantic lead: he is a penniless, unkempt, overweight guy with a kind of charm only drinking(or pot-smoking) buddies could appreciate.
Alison is gorgeous and successful, with the relentless sheen Heigl has been radiating with unvaried artificiality in 61 episodes (so far) of “Grey’s Anatomy” as Izzie Stevens.
So what do Ben and Alison have in common? The pregnancy referred to in the movie’s indelicate title. The unhappy embryo brings together not only the two unlikely lovers, but also their respective, far-distant tribes.
Ben’s grossly juvenile would-be webmaster playmates and Alison’s should-be proper family (Debbie & Co.) are squeezed together in a variety of ways. Yes, it’s a nonstarter basic plot, and the surprise is that the movie actually goes to some distance in search of some coherence.
Invariably linked with Apatow’s “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up” has mercifully less exaggerated physical comedy than the former, but the same sense of delight in the absurd, even if Apatow goes a long way at times to find truth in the ludicrous.
The result is still rather pleasant: a mostly funny, occasionally charming, steadily foul-mouthed, frequently well-written, otherwise downright stupid comedy, enjoyable in spite of its unaccountably overblown length of over two hours. It would have made a really good hour-long TV sitcom.
Also, “Knocked Up” has a first-class score by Joe Henry and Loudon Wainwright III.
Knocked Up ***
Starring Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel
Written and directed by Judd Apatow
Running time: 2 hours, 9 minutes