Knocked Up (Judd Apatow, 2007)
Ben Stone (a very likable Seth Rogen) is a marijuana-smoking, dreamless yet hopelessly romantic loser. Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) is extremely beautiful (meaning good enough to be seen interviewing Hollywood celebrities in a tabloid television show), unbelievably nice and patient. During a night that can only exist in wet dreams or modern-day fairy tales (at least for the men not gifted with irresistible suave), beauty meets the beast. They sleep together in drunken abandon resulting in a huge mistake. Alison gets pregnant and poor shocked Ben, who is living off the remainder of the meager money he won in a suit while waiting for the launch of his gang's informative website, is the father.
Never mind that major contrivance. It is the fuel that keeps the film together. It is supposedly writer-director Judd Apatow's gift to the most of us, to the men who can't seem to earn those desirable six-pack abs or that elusive successful career --- the livable fantasy that we can attract members of the highest echelon of the opposite sex and through sheer determination and focus, get them to kiss us, bed us, and eventually make us happy, deservedly or not. Apatow's works are popular and acclaimed exactly for that generosity to the most common of men, the twenty, thirty, and forty year old virgins and the fat slobs whose entire lives consist of porn, compadres, and whatever manna that drops from heaven. It seems that Apatow is building a career serving the public what they predictably want. It's not exactly daring, not ground-breaking.
Nevertheless, Knocked Up is not only an effective romantic comedy, it is also veritably compassionate, something very rare in today's crop of comedies. Sure, Apatow plays his stereotypes to the extreme --- Ben and his troop are seen either engulfed in medicinal smoke or in intense discussion of their life plans, while Alison lives in the tidied family haven of her sister (Leslie Mann) and her husband (Paul Rudd), both of which are also pumped up stereotypes (neurotic wife and cynical and secretive husband, respectively).
Apatow squeezes out a good amount of laughs and chuckles from the artificial situations and his crew of characters (played with agreeable credence by his band of comedians, which is probably why it's very difficult to see right through the contrivances), and that provides most of the distraction while Apatow readies his picture for the lovingly crafted emotional wallop, which I think is worth all the hype this film is getting. Admittedly, the comedy is lowbrow and vulgar but it eases near-perfectly with Apatow's message of utter sentimentality and conservatism.
And even the film's so-called heart, Apatow gathers from both gut instinct and genre conventions. The flailing relationship between Ben and Alison and their struggle to look past the outrageous differences between them, is a mere conjunct and abbreviation of several comedies, sitcoms and of course, real life. It's all well-taken, probably not perfectly developed, but quite amusing in its familiarity.
Birth, at least for that portion of humanity that still considers it as a miracle, is an absolution of all past mistakes. It has that tremendous power that allows us to take the violent, shrieking, shocking and even physically revolting proceeding (Apatow allows us a peek at the very graphic moments of childbirth from a view traditionally left unseen) and still consider it uplifting and memorable (enough for most families to take pictures and videos of the event). Apatow understands that and decides to cap his often conventional, sometimes brash comedy with childbirth, leaving his audience with a feeling of extreme elation, forgetful or forgiving that the film was oftentimes visually uninteresting, humorously off-tangent, or repetitive.