random reviews, recollections & reminiscings

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

DVD REVIEW: Knocked Up ***

Seth Rogen stars in Universal Pictures' Knocked Up

R for sexual content, drug use and language.
2 hrs. 9 min.

written by: Judd Apatow
produced by: Judd Apatow, Shauna Robertson & Clayton Townsend
directed by: Judd Apatow

So I finally got around to seeing what is being touted as the best comedy of the year. That's really not saying much just cuz there just aren't many good comedies out there. In fact, there's currently not many good comedies period. Notice how I don't really review too many comedies? That's cuz most of the comedies out there are awful and awfully unfunny. Maybe it's cuz my taste for cinematic humor can range from "Rushmore" to "Hot Fuzz", films that aren't necessarily labeled as straight-up "comedies" but tend to serve my funny bone a lot more the some senseless (and often tasteless) guffaws seen in most comedies. I mean, really....Ben Stiller is fast becoming the Steven Seagal of comedy!

When a comedy does come around that gets generally good reviews by both critics and average viewers as myself, I usually take note and wait for the film's DVD release. Unless, I'm in a rare mood and getting out with a mess of pals, waiting for the DVD suits me fine what with all the bells and whistles studios cram into their films. That's exactly what happened to this genuinely funny, raunchy yet real look at a freak encounter between a silly shlub of a man and a beautiful babe that (let's face it) could only have happened with a ginormous consumption of booze.

The hit comedy by director Judd Apatow continues with his streak of re-establishing bawdy, R-rated comedies as viable box office success. I still haven't seen "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and will wait for the DVD release of "Superbad" as well (for the same reasons I waited for this film). Overall, the movie goes a lil overboard with the sexism and lewd commentaries but amid all that sophomoric hilarity, there is hope. That's cuz Apatow is dealing with mature topics like the repercussions of a one night stand as well as the strain of a marriage and raising children. I like that he's not afraid to write about actual life moments while at the same time indulging the rude-minded adolescent in all of us. Speaking of which....

Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen in
 Universal Pictures' Knocked Up

Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) is in his mid-20s, slacking his way through life, living with his fellow pothead pals somewhere near Los Angeles. He's jobless, irresponsible, and a sexist slob, who sits around with similar friends as they smoke pot and actually consider trying to find nudity in movies a job. While hanging with his pals at a nightclub one night, he stumbles into a drunken one-night-stand with ambitious entertainment reporter Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl). Of course, much hilarity follows due to the fact that, without the copious amounts of alcohol consumed, these two would likely never have come together, and they certainly would never have had unprotected sex. Ben is now faced with the prospect of being a father and has to figure out how to deal with responsibility not to mention how to stop being a selfish oaf and learn to make room in his life for two other people.

The two of them try to make a go at making a relationship work. That is, as much as you can after a one night stand which proves very interesting. After all, where do you go after you've gone all the way with someone you don't know? They don't have a whole lotta positive role models or influences to exemplify a working marriage either. Allison lives in the backyard bungalow of her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) and brother-in-law Pete (Paul Rudd), a battling couple in their 30's with two adorably cute lil girls. As much time is spent on these two and their dysfunctional communication (or lack of) as the two main characters, which I believe actually helped the movie. Their story is almost equal to the main plot in humor and importance cuz it's their often bickering lives that Allison and Ben look at and wonder if that's where they'll wind up in two years. Without them as a does of hard reality, I don't think the weight of the film's theme would not be as clearly felt.

Iris Apatow , Maude Apatow , Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd in Universal Pictures' Knocked Up

Not to mention that these actors together adds up to an unbelievable comedic foursome, grabbing laughs by handfuls and also nailing the right emotional beats to make the film so much more than a standard gross-out post-sex comedy. Of course these four are only the fraction of the comedy equation in this movie. Ben's stoner buddies, all regular Apatow cast members and "Freaks & Geeks" alumni like Jason Segal and Martin Starr, "Undeclared" star Jay Baruchel, and the motormouth of "Superbad'" motormouth Jonah Hill all play the polar opposite to Ben's oncoming life of being a dad. These guys spend all their time coming up with insane bets and inventing asinine theories about getting stoned, getting laid, and basically doing nothing. Once Apatow gets the exchange going between these five friends, the results are funny yes but often shockingly so. Funny for shock sake is alright a coupla times but it crosses the line at times and becomes distracting and insulting after a while.

This is the first Apatow movie I've seen. I know all his trademarks already from his previous films that I just haven't gotten around to seeing. For some reason I found myself drawn to this one simply by the trailer and the poster. I wanted to see how this poor shlub good get such a hottie and based on the box office success this past summer, so did everyone else. So, it turns out that despite all the neuroses, despite the perverse humor, an Apatow script has a sweetness and real heart that has a draw. Very few other modern comedy directors could pull off the romantic side of Knocked Up, making Ben redeemable and finding a way to bring the main characters together in a way that is believable without pretensions.

Most reading this have probably seen this in the theater already. Since I did not, I can't really say what more the film's Extended & Unrated Edition DVD is giving viewers. I have no clue. I did notice that the length of the movie is a tad long. I usually don't notice time length when watching a movie but this one did seem to drag here and there. It wasn't annoying it was just....noticeable. Maybe some of the stoner banter coulda been cut and more time spent with Harold Ramis (as Ben's dad) and Joanna Kerns (as Allison's mom), I really enjoyed those characters and found myself wanting more. The theatrical running time was 129 minutes, while the new time is 133, so I guess there's not a large amount added.

This film was certainly a welcome surprise to me since there's just not many comedies out there that attract me. Sure it's kinda raunchy but it has enough reality and endearing elements to it that made it enjoyable and at times side-splittingly funny. I really enjoyed the main cast quite a bit. I've been a big fan of Leslie Mann's work since "Cable Guy" (which Apatow re-wrote and where he and Mann met) and even "George of the Jungle", so it's always good to see what she does next. I really enjoyed the interaction between Ben and Pete, I felt their friendship evolved quite naturally and real. I guess I could've done with a lil less of Ben's' stoner friends just for the sake of serving the main story better. But that's just a small gripe for a movie that naturally delivers some great laughs while not getting overly sweet with the sentiment.

The trailer sums up the movie pretty well without giving up too much funny but why do they have to use the overused Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax" and The Traveling Wilbury's "End of the Line"? Get ready to see one of the ugliest babies I've ever seen in the waiting room. EEEEK!

Special Features:

Once the movie is done, prepare yourself for hours of extras! This DVD is one of the most overwhelmingly loaded packages I have ever scene. It's just crazy and I didn't even have the 2-disc version which has even more bells and whistles! I'd have to either get paid to watch all the extras or have as much of a non-life as Ben's stoner pals. Immediately after viewing the film, I watched the Gag Reel, which was pretty funny. Then there was this feature called Line O-Rama, which was just various funny lines throughout the movie.

I listened to a lil bit of the commentary by Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, and Saturday Night Live cast member, Bill Hader, who plays the editor at Alison's job at E! in the film. It's the expected raucous audio track, with lots of funny interspersed with factoids about how the movie was shot and what the goals were. You know, the usual.

There are many deleted scenes and extended, alternate takes of sequences in the movie. Some of these are hysterical, some are way too lengthy and it became obvious why they were cut. The editing process must have been quite arduous for this film due to all the heavy improv the cast had. A commendable job award goes to editors, Craig Alpert and Brent White, who had to whittle down much longer scenes to their final funny product, keeping the movie moving along at the expense of some very good jokes.

Kids on the Loose is a feature showcasing the children in the film (played by Apatow and Mann's real kids), reveling in the unpredictability of youngsters set free in front of a camera. It's worth a good funny or two.

As I mentioned, there are a ton more features but these are all I really had time for. There's just too many to cover.

Writer/director Judd Apatow on the set of Universal Pictures' Knocked Up

The Skinny:

  • The film's translation in Russia is "A little bit pregnant"
  • This movie was originally going to be a follow up to The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005), having Rogen and team to reprise their roles as the Smart Tech team.
  • During the credits, when the cast and crew's actual family photos are being shown, Joanna Kerns' photo with her child is the same photo that was used in the opening credits of her sitcom show "Growing Pains" (1985).
  • The following stars have cameos as themselves throughout the movie: Cameo: Steve Carell (as himself at a awards show), Andy Dick (at awards show), Jessica Simpson (at awards show), Jessica Alba (at the award show), Eva Mendes (at awards show), Ryan Seacrest (during a shooting on "E! News" & James Franco (on E! News).
  • Baruchel is terrified of roller-coasters. In the opening sequence where they are at the amusement park he was forced to go on it by Apatow. He only agreed to ride it once, whereas the rest of the cast rode the coaster 7 more times to get all the right takes.
  • Apatow has stated on the DVD commentary numerous times, that the film is loosely based on his and Mann's birth of their first daughter, Maude.
  • Anne Hathaway was originally cast as Alison Scott in the film, but dropped out due to creative reasons. Apatow wrote that "Hathaway dropped out of the film because she didn't want to allow us to use real footage of a woman giving birth to create the illusion that she is giving birth." Jennifer Love Hewitt and Kate Bosworth auditioned for the part after Hathaway dropped out but ended up losing to Heigl.
  • In the film, one of the main characters is employed by a web design agency called Jetset Studios. The name and logo shown belong to a real-life online interactive agency for Apatow Productions. Other product endorsements occurred throughout the film from companies such as Apple, Red Bull, Corona beer, Sierra Nevada beer, Pepsi, Microsoft (Xbox 360),Google and Mr. Skin.
  • Canadian author Rebecca Eckler has written in Maclean's Magazine about the similarities between the movie and her book, Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother-to-Be, which was released in the U.S. in March 2005. She is pursuing legal action against Apatow and Universal Studios on the basis of copyright infringement.In a public statement, Apatow said, "Anyone who reads the book and sees the movie will instantly know that they are two very different stories about a common experience." Another Canadian author, Patricia Pearson, has also publicly claimed similarities between the film and her novel, Playing House. She has declined to sue.
  • The 2007 Teen Choice Awards has awarded Seacrest "Best Hissy Fit", for his brief cameo, where he becomes self-obsessed and complaining about rising young talents.
  • Strange Weirdos: Music From And Inspired By The Film Knocked Up, an original soundtrack album, was composed for the film by folk singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III and Joe Henry. In addition to Wainwright's tracks, there were approximately 40 songs featured in the motion picture that were not included on the official soundtrack on Concord Records.


Eve said...

We just rented this movie this past weekend and I was a little disappointed. I felt the chemistry was not really there between the 2 main characters,...and the guy sort of ooged me out. There were some funny parts,...and others than made me want to GAK! Your reviews look great here,..I think they look better in this format for some reason!

Lisa said...

Hey...welcome to blogspot! Eve convinced me to blog on 360 a few months ago but I like it here to keep it as a back up!

David J. Fowlie said...

Eve: I hear ya on the chemistry point. I see sooo many couples though with not-so-great chemistry who have made their relationship work. It just took extra work I guess. He was really raw at first....I was cringing when they went out for breakfast after their one-nighter. Ugh.
As for my reviews: Thanks. I think they look better here too.

lisa: Thanks for stoppin' by. I'm still totally new to blogspot and aclimating myself slowly.

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