I write this in mid-January. We’re in the midst of a hot Oscar season after a terrific year for film. Quirky comedies, British period pieces, and foreign imports are slaying critics and cleaning up at the arthouses while new works by major directors are being hailed as masterpieces. And yet I am here to proclaim that a summer sex comedy is still (thus far) my favorite film of the year.

Knocked Up wears many hats. It’s a sex comedy, a buddy movie, a stoner comedy, a chick flick, and a marriage comedy, but it is wonderful in all its forms. Knocked Up is the type of film that I have several specific problems with but I love all the parts that I love so much that I can easily gloss over its deficiencies. Under a veneer of pop culture references and potty humor (all funny on its own) is a story with a lot of heart containing characters we really grow to love.

We are introduced to Seth Rogen’s stoner/slacker Ben and Katherine Heigl’s career-minded Alison, who meet under alcohol-influenced circumstances and have a one night stand (with Rock Lobster playing in the background). Long story short, she calls him weeks later with a little surprise – she’s preggo! – and Ben and Alison see if they can make a relationship work. He’s an unemployed stoner living off an accident settlement! She’s a hard-working, practical, rising TV star! They’re an odd couple!

Okay so this is all pretty standard movie fare. In fact, Alison and Ben’s courtship – and inevitable dramatic split – is very much a straightforward romantic comedy. A top-notch romantic comedy for sure, but not the type of thing that’s going to top any favorites list.

To me, what makes Knocked Up so special is the supporting cast and how they play into the Alison-Ben relationship. Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd as Debbie and Pete, Alison’s sister and brother-in-law, provide a potential glimpse into the future for the prospective couple. They’ve been married for a while and have two precocious young daughters. While they still clearly love each other, a lot of times they don’t like each other. Debbie is a complete nag and Pete acts out because he feels trapped by his marriage while his youth slipping away.

I really like how these four characters play off each other. Debbie and Alison go out to party so that Leslie can still feel young and sexy. Pete and Ben make Back to the Future jokes at dinner and take mushrooms in Vegas. Hanging out with Ben makes Pete feel young again while Ben sees Pete as his mentor for committed relationships. Debbie is concerned about Ben’s slacker ways and how he plays fetch with her kids.

Through Pete and Debbie we get a surprising amount of poignancy about the nature of commitment, approaching middle age, and relationships growing rusty. For a while it seems like Pete is cheating on Debbie, leading up to a confrontation in a strange house that looks like it’s about to stray into cliche. Instead it turns out Pete has been sneaking out to play fantasy baseball, or to catch a movie alone. But Debbie isn’t relieved; “You think because you don’t yell you’re not mean,” she tells him. “This is mean!” It’s a surprising departure from the usual comedic formula and one that adds a lot of depth and emotion.

Or take Pete’s description of marriage: “Marriage is like that show ‘Everybody Loves Raymond,’ but it’s not funny. All the problems are the same but instead of all the funny, pithy dialogue, everybody is really pissed off and tense.”

Or, perhaps my favorite line, Pete watching his kids at the park: “I wish I liked anything as much as my kids like bubbles… Their smiling faces just point out your inability to enjoy anything.”

I invite you to check out the imdb Knocked Up quote page. Not only is it full of great jokes, but many of the quotes are fairly insightful. You’ll chuckle but you may also feel them hit home.

There are great touches from other characters. There’s the black doorman who isn’t really on a power trip, Pete and Debbie’s younger daughter who says something to make Pete contemplate home schooling, and the older daughter who steals some big laughs by googling murder and explaining her understanding of conception. Ben’s slacker friends are also a hoot, whether they are giving each other pink eye or explaining how Brokeback Mountain would have been so much better had Ang Lee just had the guts to really show two guys railing each other.

I’ve spent a lot of time explaining why I think Knocked Up is special and surprisingly deep, but it also needs to be said that it’s simply uproariously funny. I laughed so hard it hurt. Much of the humor is quite clever and a lot more is completely sophomoric. I’m fairly jaded when it comes to comedy but sometimes even I couldn’t believe the places this film was willing to go for a laugh, which of course just made me laugh harder.

Does it have problems? Sure. It’s about 15 minutes too long, for one. It also spends so much time breaking Alison and Ben apart that at some point you begin to think, “Well gee, maybe they shouldn’t be together.” But, to its credit, the film does a very good job involving the viewer in the early stages of the relationship so that we care not only about the characters but we are invested in their relationship no matter how different they are on paper. Most comedies – hell, many prestige dramas, even – don’t adequately ground their relationships so that they feel real and believable but Knocked Up does. And so it’s not perfect, but all of its terrific parts resonated with me like none other.

What we have here is a very funny, very vulgar, oftentimes clever comedy with a substantive core of sweetness, heart, and even some truth. It’s the type of film that hits the funnybone as it also makes the heart twinge. At the end, after the inevitable reunion and thirty minutes of childbirth slapstick, Ben has a small heart-to-heart with his new daughter, the new family drives home, and I walk out with of the theater a huge smile on my face and warmth in my heart. Knocked Up is the type of movie that, for days when I thought back to it, would not only make me chuckle but make me feel good. And it didn’t hurt that I was a total sucker for the images we see over the end credits: new baby photos from the proud parents in the cast and crew.

The matter at hand is the Oscars. Sorry to shock you, but Knocked Up is not an Oscar movie. If I had my way it’d be on the list for Best Picture and Judd Apatow would have a nomination for Best Director. Somehow I don’t see either happening. What it should get is a nomination for Best Original Screenplay for Apatow. This is really the nomination it deserves because it’s not really a movie with stupendous acting; its heart and humor come from the script. Leslie Mann was advanced early on for a Supporting Actress nomination, but that movement never gained any steam, which is a shame because I think her performance is the best in the film. Debbie could have easily been a one-note character and she would’ve still worked fine in the context of the comedy, but Mann gives her substance and complexity.

In case you couldn’t tell, I loved this movie.

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