When The 40-Year-Old Virgin hit back in 2005, the ribald title and bawdy concept led many to expect a typically base sex comedy. After all, we were languishing in the dreaded Frat Pack era where audiences roared with laughter at Vince Vaughn overacting or Ben Stiller regurgitating the same tired persona for the umpteenth time. Expectations were understandably low(brow).
But to the surprise of many, Virgin emerged as an engaging sleeper hit. Sure, there were crude moments, but they were littered within a sweet story which managed to strike a chord with both audiences and critics. Now Virgins writer-director Judd Apatow has returned with Knocked Up, which arrives in the UK already labelled as something of a comedy classic.
At first glance the plot of Knocked Up doesnt seem too fresh. Ben (Seth Rogen) is an eternal slacker, proud of an inactive life of pot-smoking. Alison (Katherine Heigl) is an ambitious twenty-something working hard at her job at E! Television. Theyre two people who really should never have met in the first place. But after a particularly drunken night they end up having a one night stand.
A pleasant surprise for Ben and a mistake for Alison turns into something even more unexpected 6 weeks later. Alison is pregnant. Deciding against all odds to keep it, Alison and Ben are thrown together into a situation neither of them ever anticipated at this point in their lives. Building a relationship around a drunken one-nighter proves a challenge for them both. Hilarity ensues.
The buzz, the hype, everything youve heard is correct. Knocked Up is better than any comedy weve seen for an unreasonable amount of time. As in Virgin, Apatow manages to have that rare ability of embedding an incredible warmth into a genuinely funny script. Not as in, slight-smirk funny, but as in consistently, laugh-out-loud funny.
Its tough to actually pinpoint a standout moment of humour as the pace is so enviably relentless. Its so refreshing to find humour borne out of characters and situations and not from tiresome slapstick. Its helped of course by Apatows fine cast. Graduating from support to lead, Seth Rogen makes an initially odd choice for leading man. But coupled with an eminently likeable Katherine Heigl, the two make a comically astute pair.
The emphasis here is clearly com over rom but that doesnt stop them from creating a chemistry that makes their unlikely relationship totally believable. Devoid of the sentimentality that so often ruins Hollywood, Knocked Up is frank and honest and ultimately rather sweet. Its goofy charm is nigh-on impossible to resist.
Virgin co-stars Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann (Apatows real life spouse) provide the film with a counter-balance as a couple who have been forced together long ago and have always lived under the strain of trying to make it work. Both are excellent, both funny and melancholic at the same time. Also notable is a biting turn by SNL regular Kristin Wiig, as Heigls bitter colleague: her role is slight but creates some of the biggest laughs in the movie.
Knocked Up has that rare ability to make you feel as if youre the one person in the cinema who has discovered it. Its that film that you cant wait to show to your friends and to watch on DVD again and again. Its not just the summers funniest film, or the years but one of the most entertaining comedies of the past 5 years. Absolutely not to be missed.