Danny Westhorpe, 23, Newcastle Upon Tyne.

• Film Reviews » Knocked Up
8/10

“What if this guy got you pregnant?”

Knocked Up works for one key reason. Director Judd Apatow has found his niche in managing to juggle sweet romance with vulgar comedy to create a film that both males and females can enjoy and relate too. This easily could have fell flat on its face, with the average male viewer disappointed by the extended pillow talk or heart-to-hearts, and the average female viewer disappointed by the regular cannabis smoking sessions or boys goofing around scenes. Credit to Apatow though, he's got the balance between the two perfect and it's rare that a kiss or a cuddle isn't followed by a fart joke or pair of breasts, and vice-versa.

The plot is fairly straightforward. Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) is an unemployed layabout living off a compensation cheque he received nearly a decade ago. Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) is a television presenter with her sights set high. The pair meet by chance in a club and after a little too much to drink, spend the night together. Considered a one-night stand to start with, things change drastically when Alison discovers she's pregnant. Both their worlds are turned upside down with Alison more focused on her career than being a mother and Ben scarcely more than a child himself. The two decide to try and make it work regardless, and what ensures is some fantastic comedy along with a romantic tale that for once, isn't about the lengths people will go to for true love.

Rogen and Heigl put in realistic performances so much so that it's easy to mistake them for an actual couple.
The Scott's sound and act like an actual family (which is understandable considering three of them are related).

Rogen and Heigl have fantastic chemistry together from their first encounter to the awkward steps forward that follow. The story of two completely different people falling in love isn't exactly original, but that's not what this film is. It's two completely different people simply trying to get by as best they can and embrace the other's lifestyle and world – all for the sake of the baby.

While the two leads are on top form and supply the romantic side of the story, it's the support cast that step in and provide the comedy. Alison's sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) and brother-in-law Pete (Paul Rudd) are great as an ordinary married couple with a few problems of their own. Their children (Leslie Mann's two real life daughters) are not only cute and funny, but show they've inherited some of their mothers acting talent. The clan as a whole provide some positive side-stories, warm family comedy and really help move the plot forward.

On the other side of the supporting cast we have Ben's friends and room-mates. Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill and Martin Starr are all funny in their own right and seem to come together to create one giant gag reel. The friends bombard each other with light-hearted insults and practical jokes and add some much needed relief, helping to break up what would otherwise be a pretty one sided romantic ride.

A love story between two ordinary folk was never going to heavily rely on rendering unbelievable CGI or jaw-dropping action sequences. However, the limited special effects are nice when used. The birth scene in particular is extremely realistic from both a medical and audience point of view. In fact there's nice little touches all over the movie, from the cool mise-en-scene in Ben's apartment to the obscure jokes made by characters now and then.

The opening and closing scenes really epitomise the clash of genres and the type of movie this is. The opening scene sets up what Ben's life is all about. Shown in quick flashes the laughter begins before the opening credits have finished. Whether it's backyard boxing, bong hits all round or riding a high-speed roller-coaster, the scene is a fantastic introduction to Ben and the kind of guy he is. No worries and no responsibilities, just goofing around with his friends and living the life most young men would kill to have.

In a complete change of pace, the closing scene scene shows the transformation he's made. Now a father, one drunken night has changed him for the rest of his life. With something so small and fragile depending on him so much, the days of unplanned fun and nothing but enjoyment have dropped in his priority list. He drives mother and baby home from the hospital at a slow and steady pace as the utterly moving “Daughter” by Loudon Wainwright III plays in the background. The change is complete and the half of the audience that came for the romance get their “awwww” ending.

Without doubt the previously mentioned “Daughter” is the best track on the films impressive score. It compliments the scene so well and paints a vivid image in the viewers mind of the life the improvised family will go on to lead. The rest of the soundtrack takes a page out of the genres book and includes a variety of songs, predominantly with two distinct vibes.

Tracks by Lily Allen, Britney Spears and Little River Band are used to add to the romance, whilst louder and faster beats by the likes of Dizzee Rascal, The Clash, Beck and The Scorpions stop things from getting a little to predictable and boring. The plot splits comedy and romance straight down the middle and the soundtrack follows suit. For every gentle harmony and soft piano there's a speedy guitar riff or nightclub dance hit.

Ben's friends put in stella performances and supply at least 50% of the films humour.
"Granted, gynecology is only a hobby of mine, but it sounds to me like she's crowning."

Unfortunately the storyline is pretty thin at times and the plot-direction isn't great. A lot of the time it feels like you're watching disjointed scenes that aren't part of a single film. It isn't helped by the fact that the film has to fit nine months of pregnancy into just over two hours, meaning time skips forward at an alarming rate. Weeks seem to pass by in a matter of seconds leaving conflicts unresolved and questions unanswered.

Another sour point is the under-use of some serious talent. Alison's job as a television presenter means there's notable cameos from several Hollywood A-Listers. Jessica Alba, Steve Carell, Andy Dick, James Franco, Eva Mendes and Ryan Seacrest all appear, but are on screen in total for less than five minutes, leaving a feeling of complete waste. Only Franco and Seacrest get enough time to shine, and even then it's still much less than you feel could have been allocated. The often hilarious Carell and gorgeous Alba and Mendes are utterly wasted.

Other than that “what could have been” factor, the film ticks all the right boxes. Funny at times and touching at others, Knocked Up follows a bunch of likeable characters who you care about throughout. Comedy and romance are heavily represented and fans of either genre should enjoy this flick. Despite a fairly predictable ending it's the characters and their interactivity with one and other that make the film. So much so that knowing what's going to happen won't bother you too much, because for once you actually want the happily ever after ending.

Copyright © Danny Westhorpe, 2014. All rights reserved.
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