May 28, 2007

Knocked Up.

Knocked Up "[W]hat makes Judd Apatow's follow-up to The 40-Year-Old Virgin such a consistently good time is its ability to provide sincere rom-com sweetness without sacrificing any of its lewd, profane edge," writes Nick Schager at Slant. "[T]he plethora and sharpness of Knocked Up's hilarious moments - most of which involve [Seth] Rogen, flashing pudgy charm and clever wit in his first leading role - is arresting, from Ben and friends' constant insults about a roommate's scraggly beard, to his impending fatherhood-inspired disgust with the reckless irresponsibility of Cheaper by the Dozen, to a riotously astute love scene between Ben and a very pregnant Alison [Katherine Heigl]."

Updated through 6/3.

"It's a film of deeply traditional values," notes New York's David Edelstein. "[I]t might even be taken as a parable for the post-Roe v Wade era. But Knocked Up feels very now. The banter is bruisingly funny, the characters brilliantly childish, the portrait of our culture's narrowing gap between children and their elders hysterical - in all senses."

"Call it the taming of the Shrek," proposes Anthony Lane in the New Yorker. "Most women, I imagine, will scoff with incredulity: this is neither a last hurrah (Alison is still in her 20s) nor the ideal time (she has a good job), and Ben is the last slob on earth she would have chosen. Most men, meanwhile, will be too busy watching through their fingers. To them, this is The Omen." Further in: "On the surface, Apatow's films are about sex - obsessively, exclusively, and exhaustively. (This one lasts more than two hours.) But that is a clever feint, for their true subject is age."

"It is, in all, a forgivably and often hilarious enterprise; had it an inebriated Steve Carell or even a choreographed sing-a-long dance sequence, it might have been Judd Apatow's best work," writes Rumsey Taylor for Not Coming to a Theater Near You, where he also considers Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared.

It "begins with the couple going to bed - which means the movie can then focus on their attempts to forge a relationship with each other, exactly the messy, agonizing, compromise-filled, non-magical, non-predestined-by-fate part of romance that almost every other movie compulsively avoids dealing with," notes Paul Matwychuk. "Knocked Up is so refreshingly different, it's almost radical."

NYT Magazine: Apatow "Both of the films Apatow has directed offer up the kind of conservative morals the Family Research Council might embrace - if the humor weren't so filthy," writes Stephen Rodrick in a long profile for the New York Times Magazine.

"It makes sense that our culture is embracing the mojo-free man right now," suggests Jennie Yabroff in Newsweek. "As America comes to terms with our diminished omnipotence in the wake of 9/11, the Iraq War and President Bush's international unpopularity, we're growing weary of Teflon-coated John Wayne stereotypes of masculinity. Donald Rumsfeld, Ken Lay, Mel Gibson, Don Imus - all chest-beating, leader-of-the-pack men, and look what happened to them. The alpha dog doesn't hunt anymore. The new role model is a beta male."

Online viewing tip. At Cinematical, Erik Davis shows us "truly one of the funniest (and smartest) pieces of viral marketing I have ever seen."

Updates, 5/30: "Lewd, crude and straight from the heart, Apatow's sophomore big-screen directoral effort is something like a neurotic 1970s Paul Mazursky film filtered through a contemporary, pop-culture-sodden frat-house sensibility," writes Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly. "Comic guru Harold Ramis eventually shows up, offering a sort of weird benediction in a small role as Ben's cheerfully zonked dad. This is important. The co-writer of Animal House, Meatballs and Caddyshack took time out from directing the very best episodes of NBC's The Office to lend his happy, hearty, Buddha-like presence to endorse Knocked Up as something well worth your while. It is."

"[T]he film seethes with misdirected and unrecognized anger," finds the Boston Phoenix's Peter Keough. "There'd be more laughs if, instead of covertly blasting women, Apatow acknowledged that it's matrimony, parenthood, and social conformity that are pissing him off and made them the butt of his humor."

Updates, 5/31: "Lord knows, the world doesn't lack for slacker movies, but Apatow's singular achievement has been to drag an increasingly worn-out indie subgenre into the mainstream without sacrificing its R-rated edge," writes Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly. "In less outré hands, the baby pictures that frame the closing credits would make me gag. In Knocked Up, they feel earned."

"Not only is it the funniest film in decades, but its easily one of 2007's best efforts," writes Bill Gibron for PopMatters.

"If Apatow struggles with the movie's more dramatic passages - and despite its billing as a raucous comedy, there are quite a few - it's because he's a brilliant enabler of comedians but borderline-incompetent as a film director," writes Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper. "Knocked Up is pushing for poignancy as well as belly laughs, and the movie doesn't have the structure to sustain both."

"It's possible that Apatow is being over-praised, but based on what he's pulled off with Knocked Up, it's getting harder to make that argument," writes Zack Smith in the Independent Weekly. "Somehow, a two-hour-and-10-minute comedy with an idea as old as time (loser impregnates a one-night stand and grows up!) has managed to be the funniest film of 2007. Aside from that, he's pulled off some casting coups: He's not only written a large and hilarious part for his real-life wife, Leslie Mann, but he's cast his young daughters, Iris and Maude, in smaller parts - and they're hilarious. Hell, he even gets a funny performance out of Ryan Seacrest. The man is good."

"[M]aybe the best American comedy this decade," suggests Noel Murray in the Nashville Scene.

"This prime-time premise is so blatant it ought to have commercial breaks between each transparently fabricated scene," counters - who else? - Armond White in the New York Press. "Yet, as in last year's hit, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Apatow delivers jokes on cue - with TV-timing and TV-superficiality. His corruption of film comedy is ignored by coach-potato audiences and critics."

Nick Dawson interviews Apatow for Filmmaker.

"Women are, as ever and at best, the straight man in Apatow's comedic hierarchy," notes Michelle Orange at the Reeler. "[W]here men use humor as a way to relate, compete, impress and most crucially to gain respect, the women stand by unimpressed, if not unimpressive."

"This is a movie John Hughes never grew up to make," declares Ray Pride. And as for Leslie Mann, "she steals this rude laugh and heart machine, as a fortysometing Tourettic sexpot with a slightly nasal voice, in every scene simmering like a woman still ascending her sexual peak. (Hot.)"

"It's one of those zeitgeist-tapping romantic comedies that feels like a generational marker, a Tootsie or The Graduate for the 21st century," writes Dana Stevens in Slate. "Still, there was something about Knocked Up that bugged me... Apatow writes men with far more insight and acuity than he writes women.... It's not that Knocked Up is misogynistic - if anything, Apatow is uxorious to a fault, scrupulously respectful of chicks and the chick stuff they do. He just doesn't seem to get exactly what that stuff is."

Updates, 6/1: "It may be a bit, um, premature to say so, but Judd Apatow's Knocked Up strikes me as an instant classic, a comedy that captures the sexual confusion and moral ambivalence of our moment without straining, pandering or preaching," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "While this movie's barrage of gynecology-inspired jokes would have driven the prudes at the old Hays Office mad, its story, about a young man trying to do what used to be the very definition of the Right Thing, might equally have brought a smile of approval to the lips of the starchiest old-Hollywood censor."

In the Chicago Reader, JR Jones looks back over the oeuvre, and then: "Apatow ends the movie on a joyful note, but to his credit he never backs off from his dark view of Ben and Alison's future.... The only moment of genuine hope comes during the delivery, a howlingly funny climax that surpasses any such scene in American comedy."

"Leave it to Apatow to make a deceptively sophisticated meditation on the ambiguities of personal morality - with pot jokes," writes Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post.

"It's one thing to go with the idea that Ben and Alison dwell in different leagues, which after all is the point of the movie," writes Carina Chocano. "It's another thing altogether for the heroine, who in true girl-on-pedestal form is beautiful, smart, successful, nice and pretty much cool with everything, never to get even the tiniest chance to wonder if maybe she might have done a little better. Alison's view of her future with Ben fluctuates according to what he does or doesn't do in a given situation, or how well or badly her sister and brother-in-law Pete (Paul Rudd) are getting along. But it's never measured up to her own hopes or dreams for a relationship. What her type is, we'll never know."

Also in the Los Angeles Times: Jay A Fernandez watches Apatow work a scene; and Randy Lewis: "Having turned [Loudon] Wainwright into a TV dad six years ago in the Fox series Undeclared, Apatow returned to him this time not just to write songs but also to compose the score, with help from another Wainwright acolyte, Joe Henry."

"Great comedies work on us the way great dramas do: They burrow deep inside, planting timed-release capsules of mood and feeling that may self-activate hours, or even days, later," writes Salon's Stephanie Zacharek. "Writer-director Judd Apatow's Knocked Up is that kind of comedy, hilarious from moment to moment, but leaving behind both a warm glow and a sting. This is a picture that refuses to fetishize either the ability to conceive or the significance of our place in the universe once we've done so."

"No one writes for ensembles better than Apatow (who could probably spin whole movies out of the misadventures of Rogen's buddies or Rudd and Mann's contentious marriage), and his players are all skilled at giving his work a loose, improvisational feel," writes the AV Club's Scott Tobias. "That looseness again results in a comedy that stretches well past the two-hour mark, but that's part of the Apatow touch: He makes viewers want to hang out with his characters indefinitely."

"Apatow, represents, for the moment at least, the best in American movie comedy," declares Richard Schickel in Time.

"How gratifying it is to have your high expectations exceeded," smiles Peter Smith at Nerve.

Online viewing tip. At Modern Fabulosity: "If jokes this good are on the cutting room floor, imagine the possibilities..."

Updates, 6/2: At Stop Smiling, Nick Pinkerton picks a few bones, then adds, "I have the luxury of quibbling because Apatow hardly lacks for defenders... On the whole, he deserves all the laurels he's consistently had laid on him." The NYT Magazine profile, "noting Apatow's fondness for keeping together his ensemble casts, also name-checks Preston Sturges. It's a ridiculously premature comparison by any measure, but not entirely uninstructive; what separates them is the difference between Apatow, a very good collector of scenes, gags and actors, and a great director. And if Judd Apatow is going to set the gold standard for American screen comedy, it's only natural to start expecting more."

David Poland: "It's fair to say that Knocked Up has many of the strengths and weaknesses of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies... too long, too complicated, not realistic, and leaving you wishing a few characters were dumped, versus lots of laughs, some cool ideas, fantasy realism, and leaving you loving a few of the characters enough to watch them again sometime soon."

At ScreenGrab, Leonard Pierce looks back on five "Pregnancy Comedies."

Update, 6/3: "Jack Black is starring in Year One, a comedy Judd Apatow is producing for Columbia," reports Diane Garrett for Variety. "Harold Ramis, who appears in a small role in Apatow's Knocked Up, will direct and co-produce, and Michael Cera, who stars in Superbad, another Apatow production for Col, is also attached to star."

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Posted by dwhudson at May 28, 2007 1:43 PM