In many ways, Knocked Up can be seen as the de facto sequel of Virgin. While Virgin taught us the wonders of (finally) having sex as we watched the blossoming of a chaste romance, Knocked Up follows up with a story about the results of sex turning into a somewhat less than chaste romance. Seth Rogen stars as Ben Stone, a character not dissimilar to his Virgin role as Cal. An illegal Canadian immigrant living in a pot-smoke-marinated house with a bunch of equally stoned-out buddies, Ben lucks out when he scores a drunken one night stand with ambitious E! News correspondent Allison (Katherine Heigl, in a refreshingly un-crazy-blonde role). His luck peters out when a misunderstanding results in Allison's pregnancy.
It turns out that under Ben's dazed, unshaven, chubby exterior beats a pretty decent heart, and he agrees to give it a go with Allison, relationship wise, for the baby's sake. It's not easy, and a great deal of the film's verbal comedy comes from the characters growing and changing and adapting to their partners. Along with Rogen and Heigl, Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd star as Allison's sister and brother-in-law, a couple who married due to pregnancy and whose fracturing relationship does not bode well for the direction Ben and Allison's is headed in.
There are a lot of similarities with Virgin, and most of them are good ones. Many Virgin cast members return (including Steve Carell in a neat cameo), along with alums from Apatow's Freaks And Geeks days. Like Virgin, the core storyline revolves around the hilarious, painful, but ultimately positive changes the protagonist undergoes to earn the love of a woman. Ben, with his perpetual drug use, unemployment, and dependence on a dwindling amount of Canadian government money, seems a far cry from being worthy of a glowing, blonde career woman like Allison, but of course, if he was a stud, there wouldn't be much of a movie, now would there?
And, like Virgin, the movie's concept succeeds because the characters, for all their crude humour and flaws, are genuinely likeable, realistic, and good-natured people. The reason Knocked Up proceeds past the first fifteen minutes is because Ben is willing to live up to his responsibilities and is capable of understanding the significance of fathering a child. There are far too many rom-coms out there that rely on the tired tactic of making their protagonists artificially quirky or uncharacteristically cruel or selfish in an effort to make the repetitive plots entertaining and interesting. Apatow, instead, takes a well-worn relic of a plot (opposites attract) and spices it up with relatable realism combined with blink-and-you'll-miss it conversational humour.
Plus, it's seriously funny. True, while there are visual gags aplenty, Knocked Up appears to be, before all else, a listening comedy. The characters talk to each other, articulately and at length, and people munching loudly on their popcorn while waiting for Rogen to be hit in the groin with a football are going to walk away sadly disappointed.
For those of us with ears open, this was a real treat.
Crush du Jour Rating:
Elijah's super-keen! (Translation: "Never doubt the soothing, sensual powers of dorks! A!")