You know what? I’m not quite ready to jump on the Judd Apatow bandwagon after all. The two flicks he’s written and directed so far (The 40 Year Old Virgin was the first one) are pretty damn funny, but not as hilarious and inspired as Anchorman and Talladega Nights, which Apatow produced but which were written by star Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay.
It’s kind of odd to compare the filmmaking of guys who’ve only made two movies apiece, but indulge me for a minute. I’d say the biggest difference between the Apatow and McKay oeuvres (heh) is that whereas the former is making comedies but also wants to tell relationship stories and get more serious at times, the latter is all about going for the laughs. Oh, Ron Burgundy and Ricky Bobby do have character arcs and romantic interests, but those are clearly an afterthought to nearly non-stop demented shit (jazz flute!).
In “Virgin” and especially “Knocked Up” though, every other scene tones the goofiness down, there’s some cutesy beats, quite a bit of drama and romance… Nothing wrong with that, that unexpected sweetness is nice actually, but it gets to be a bit much. It’s not just the comedy that’s not as tight as it could be, the sentimental stuff is loose, too. “Knocked Up” is 129 minutes long, for chrissakes! Comedy’s all about timing and momentum, you shouldn’t space the gags like this. Look at Woody Allen, most of his films run for 90 minutes or so, no fat; dude certainly never made a 129 minutes long movie!
Alright, enough bitching. In case it isn’t clear, I actually liked “Knocked Up”, but the advance buzz had me expecting the comedy of the year, and it’s not (Wright and Pegg’s hold on the title is clearly not under threat). What it is is a good enough romantic comedy which takes the somewhat unusual route of having boy meet girl, boy have drunken sex with girl, boy get girl pregnant right there. And as played by Seth Rogen, boy’s hardly Mr. Right: he’s an unemployed Canadian Jew pothead who lives in a filthy house with four other slackers (Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr and Jason Segel) who share his foolhardy ambition to make a living with a website documenting celebrity nudity in movies – as if no one had thought of that before!
The scenes of male camaraderie are probably the best thing in both of Apatow’s pictures. He really gets how stupid and gross and rowdy guys can get when they’re hanging out by themselves. I also love all the geeky banter and random references to everything from “Total Recall” to “Munich” and “Back to the Future”. Then there’s what Kevin Smith refers to as hetero lifemates, i.e. relationships between men that are “one cock in the mouth shy of being gay”! This is mostly apparent here between Rogen’s character and Paul Rudd, who plays the brother-in-law of the girl he knocked up. Words can’t do it justice, but it’s awesome how the two instantly connect and relate to each other, and then they go on this trip to Vegas and… Aww, you’ll see!
In the potentially thankless role of “the girl”, Katherine Heigl actually comes off pretty great. I’ve bitched enough about how I feel that the touchy-feely material, for better or worse, stops “Knocked Up” from being non-stop hilarity, but taken for what it is, that part of the film is enjoyable enough thanks in no small part to Heigl, who’s not only easy on the eyes but engaging, game and pretty amusing herself at times. So yeah, not the comedy of the year, but a good time at the movies notheless. Seacrest out!