For those of you who haven't heard yet, Judd Apatow appears to be on a roll. His excellent 2005 comedy "The 40-Year Old Virgin" was not only a critical and financial success, it was actually funny; which is a lot more than you can say about many comedies they churn out these days. Not to mention producing the latest hit "Superbad", it appears that Hollywood is one big green light for him and his crew in the very near future, and that's a good thing.
It has been said that comedy is actually the most difficult genre to pull off. If that is the case, Apatow and his crew seem to make it look easy, because his sophomore effort is quite funny and actually made me laugh. We've had plenty of so-called comedies take on the subject of relationships and dealing with kids and pregnancy, and I must admit, most of them get it completely wrong.
I mean, usually these types of films have titles like, "Cheaper By The Dozen", "Daddy Day Care", "Are We There Yet?" and the list goes on. These films are usually completely devoid of humor and a waste of talent, but haul in money and people by the truckloads, and yet underneath them they have no soul. Their primary function seems to be a huge payday.
"Knocked Up" on the other hand takes those types of comedies and puts them right where they belong and almost reinvents the whole genre in its own subversive way. You see, the very title itself, as offensive as it may seem, draws in the crowds. And the excellent trailer did it just right, it pulled them right in and this film became a huge financial success, proving to all of tinseltown that Apatow & Co. are here to stay, so you better get comfortable, or uncomfortable, because there are times when "Knocked Up" will make you cringe, and in a good way, if that is possible.
This film has a little something for everyone. Yes, Apatow and his crew seem to have a bright future indeed, one that will certainly be fun to follow.
This film follows the lives of two completely different people who somehow come together, despite all reasonable odds. It opens with the main character, resident stoner and downwardly mobile slacker Ben Stone (Seth Rogan) sitting around goofing off with his roommates and friends Jason (Jason Segel), Jay (Jay Baruchel), Jonah (Jonah Hill) and Martin (Martin Starr). It is revealed in the commentary that these are all close friends of the director, and he just let them all use their real names, which reveals why so many of these scenes seem so comfortable and spontaneous, most involved in the production are friends and family members. And these guys truly have some hilarious conversations about pop culture and life in general.
I found myself laughing out loud at some of the witty and some downright stupid observations between these guys. They are planning on starting a website called fleshofthestars.com as their sole purpose in life is watching movies to find nude scenes of famous actresses and make all the details available to their clients. Funny stuff.
We also get to meet a family seemingly a world apart from Ben and his stoned buddies, the beautiful Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) is living with her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann), her husband Pete (Paul Rudd) and their two adorable and very funny children Charlotte and Sadie (Iris and Maude Apatow). Let me just say, these two kids say some very witty dialogue. The scene in the car where one of the girls talks about 'googling murder' is not only funny, but a dead on commentary about how we simply can't protect them like we used to.
These kids aren't annoying like some other children that get cast in films and suffer from what I call the 'Anakin Syndrome'. This family is very well off, Pete is a music producer, and Alison is just getting started on a promising career as an entertainment reporter for E! Entertainment, and we witness her interviewing Ryan Seacrest in the opening scenes (and his performance also plays on our expectations of how we may perceive him, very funny).
While out clubbing in Hollywood and celebrating her new promotion, Alison and her sister somehow come into contact with Ben and his scruffy friends and Ben and Alison impossibly end up getting along quite well. His charm and sense of humor win her over, that and a few drinks, and they take the party to her house and end up sleeping together.
The next morning, they have breakfast together and part ways very awkwardly. They don't speak for a couple of months, but a lot has happened during those two months - mainly morning sickness. After going through about fifteen home pregnancy tests, she calls him and they meet for dinner where she reveals her pregnancy to him; and that he is the father. His reaction is so realistic and appropriate you will forget you are watching a movie.
Films usually handle these types of scenes so unrealistically it is almost sickening, but this film holds nothing back, even with the possibility of offending those that are obviously waiting to be offended when they go to see a movie called "Knocked Up". Still, the power of Apatow's films seem to be the way he walks a dangerous line and never really goes too far, because underneath all of it is an undeniable sweetness and truth that rings through the shock humor and irreverence.
The entire film deals with what happens next, she decides to keep the baby and Ben makes the choice to rise to the occasion, and their relationship changes as the pregnancy escalates. To the dismay of the sisters, Ben and Pete bond in a way some guys will and get along famously.
After dealing with enough hormones and feminine nagging to push them over the edge they decide to indulge on a psychedelic road trip to Vegas and eat psilocyban mushrooms, then follow it up with a visit to a Cirque du Soleil performance. While having hallucinatory revelations both men have some soul searching and decide they should be more understanding of their female partners. Of course, once they return to LA, some unexpected twists are waiting for them.
I'll let you find out the rest. I wish we had more comedies on the same level as this one. It really has heart, even though on the surface it may seem obnoxious. And it really deals with certain areas of marriage and relationships in an honest matter that I haven't seen done before. There is a scene where Pete's wife suspects he is cheating, but catches him instead sneaking away to a fantasy baseball gathering and is still angry. The argument that follows is one that any married couple can relate to.
This film is simply very well written, intelligent and very well made and the 'Unrated And Unprotected' version contains four extra raunchy minutes.
Seth Rogan's performance is a breakthrough for him, the friendship that grows between his character and Rudd's is interesting to watch develop, since they seem at first like such different types of people. Everything just came together for this one. Don't miss it. Hopefully it will breathe new life into comedies in general, and get studios to give a chance to more fresh new talent instead of regurgitating the same stupid "Scary Movie" type humor we have been seeing lately. Comedy is not dead, thank goodness for that.
On the video side of things we have a fairly solid picture that fills the screen nicely at the 1:85.1 aspect. Strangely the picture isn't quite as razor sharp as I've come to expect from brand new high definition releases, but it still pops off the screen quite nicely. The colors are well-balanced and the skin tones appear natural. Good, but not outstanding, surprisingly. Don't get me wrong, the dark scenes are handled very nicely and the different shades are well rendered, it's just not quite as good as "The 40-Year Old Virgin" was picture wise. Still, there isn't really much to complain about, because this movie still looks quite good on HD-DVD.
The audio is also good. The dialogue comes through clean and the music and sound effects are all nicely reproduced in the surround speakers. This is one of those films where a song is always playing, and I must admit, the soundtrack is actually quite good, unlike some dreaded romantic comedies and their choices for bands, this has quite a nice selection, from Beck to Tommy Lee (yes, Tommy Lee!), we get a very broad spectrum of musical cuts. Perhaps it would have been nice to get a Dolby TrueHD track, but Universal doesn't seem to provide these very often.
As with "The 40-Year-Old Virgin", the special features are lively and quite entertaining. All of them are in standard definition, though, but at least they are enhanced for 16:9 televisions.
The commentary is especially fun to listen to; on board we have Seth Rogan, Judd Apatow and Bill Hader from Saturday Night Live. This commentary is lively and whenever things seem to slow down, Bill Hader does dead on impressions of famous movie stars including Vincent Price, Al Pacino and Humphrey Bogart. Not only is this actually an informative track, it is a must listen, so put it on next time you break out the knitting needles.
We also have a collection of deleted scenes that are just as funny as the film itself, four extended scenes that were wisely trimmed down, a Gag Reel, 'Line-O-Rama' is a compilation of catchy phrases from the film. 'Topless Scene: Web Design Company' is about thirty seconds and is just a nude shot that was cut from the film.
We also have a couple of featurettes, supposedly. One 'Rollercoaster Doc' is basically just a 'you got Punk'd' type deal all about how one of the cast members is afraid to ride rollercoasters, but gets tricked into it. Kind of embarrassing really. The other feels like an on set in joke that none of the rest of us understand. It's about seven minutes long and features Bennet Miller (the director of "Capote") and how he's supposed to baby-sit through the production and help the team avoid a sophomore slump.
I don't get it. Really, all of these features could have been left off, except the excellent commentary. Still, it's more bang for your buck, I guess.
We also have the DVD version of this film on the flip side of the disc, since it is part of the overpriced and much dreaded Combo Format.
Now, Universal is really getting serious about their web enabled content, and it is really starting to get interesting. After connecting your Ethernet cable to your player and establishing the link, simply register your user name and password and then your ready to go. It takes a couple of minutes to get started and the downloading can be a little slow (you can only download one thing at a time), but I'm sure it will go faster after a firmware update or two.
And what we have so far are five exclusive deleted scenes and alternate takes and four trailers for upcoming films. Very cool, and the U-Control feature is a picture in picture commentary that features other members of the cast, also very cool. It also features behind the scenes footage. Universal is keeping their promise about being serious about web enabled content, and I'm excited about the future. We'll be watching.
"Knocked Up" was a lot of fun and this HD-DVD version is definitely the version to own. If some of the special features are a little lacking, it can be forgiven by the excellent commentaries and the enhanced web driven content. I loved it.