Vulgarity Eclipses Humor in Knocked Up
- Stephen McGarvey Executive Editor
- 2007 6 Jun
DVD Release Date: September 25, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: June 1, 2007
Rating: R (for sexual content, drug use and language)
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Run Time: 129 min.
Director: Judd Apatow
Actors: Seth Rogan, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr, Joanna Kerns, Harold Ramis, Alan Tudyk, Kristen Wiig
It’s not every day you open your thesaurus looking for synonyms for words like “vulgar” or “obscene,” but reviewing a movie like Knocked Up will do that to you. The film has some great comic appeal. It has many endearing emotional moments. It even has an uplifting pro-life message. Unfortunately, you will have to stomach a mountain of obscenity to get to good stuff.
As anyone who has ever had a child can tell you, the issues of pregnancy and childbirth are certainly ripe for comedy. And this sort of “Oh no, we are having a baby, what do we do?” story has been told before. But with today’s mores, however, filmmakers can take can takes the coarseness of a film to a whole new level. Which isn’t to say there aren’t a lot of laughs here--there are. It’s just the sickening, frat boy crudity makes it difficult to truly enjoy them.
Entertainment journalist Alison (Katherine Heigl), goes out for a night on the town with big sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) to celebrate a promotion at work. At a club she meets lovable Ben (Seth Rogan), and the two hit it off. After a few hours of drinking and dancing and more drinking, the two stumble back to her place for sex. In their inebriated state, miscommunication occurs over the issue of contraception and it is subsequently overlooked. Then, the next day when everyone sobers-up, it is clear that the two are horribly mismatched. Put-together, professional Alison discovers that Ben is a slovenly slacker who lives with four roommates, can’t afford a mobile phone, and smokes a great deal of weed. His “job” is developing a web site that catalogs nudity in film.
The two move on from their “one night stand” never to see each other again except . . . Alison starts getting sick in the middle of her interviews and uh-oh, discovers a baby is on the way. She quickly gets back in touch with Slacker Ben for “date” #2 to give him the news; he’s going to be a daddy.
You would expect Ben to freak out, and he does at first. But he quickly readjusts to the situation. After a round of silly advice from his goofball friends he turns to his father (the tragically underused Harold Ramis). In one of the film’s most poignant scenes, Dad tells Ben that sometimes life throws you a curveball and you just have to make the best of it. This gives him the gumption to tell Alison he is on-board for whatever she decides.
Against the disturbing advice of her mother (Joanna Kerns), Alison decides to keep the baby. Of course, if she didn’t it wouldn’t be much of a movie, and certainly not a comedy. Ben and Alison begin to develop a romance in spite of their extenuating circumstances. Ben is endearing and trying to become good father/husband material. While in reality it is untenable that the attractive Alison could find very much to like about man-boy Ben, the engaging on-screen chemistry between Heigl and Rogan makes the pair seem more compatible than they would actually be. Rogan plays Ben’s subtle character arch with convincing finesse.
As the film progresses you get the feeling that Ben is not a complete loser, but just a guy who was never shown how to be a man. He truly wants to be the man in Alison’s life but flounders at first. Differences make Alison decide she doesn’t want to just get together because a child is on the way. She points out her control-freak sister and lethargic brother-in-law Pete (Paul Rudd), whom Ben has been palling around with, had a shot gun wedding due to an unplanned pregnancy and subsequently a less-than-happy marriage. There is the typical romantic comedy breakup scene after a big fight, but naturally they work it out in time for the baby’s arrival.
Of course, Ben’s roomies are always around with their vulgar “advice.” The issues surrounding pregnancy and childbirth can allow for some pretty tasteless jokes. And in the case of Knocked Up, the glibness of the title speaks volumes. What could have been a charming comedy about "putting off childish things" is lost in a sea of dirty jokes.
AUDIENCE: Adults (AUTHOR’S NOTE: Please don’t write to Crosswalk and complain that you took your kids to see this movie because it is “pro-life” and has an overall positive message. Read the cautions below and take them seriously.)
- Drugs/Alcohol: Drinking in club and restaurant scenes. Ben and his friends smoke a lot of marijuana throughout the film. And while those around him question how fit a parent he will be because of it, the pot smoking is not condemned. At one point Alison tells him “that’s just who you are and that’s ok.” Ben and Pete take hallucinogenic mushrooms on a trip to Las Vegas.
- Language/Profanity: A great abundance of raunchy language. More, in fact, than any reasonable person could inventory. Every profane and offensive word you’ve ever heard, many, many times over. There was so much profanity and so many disturbing sex jokes that it must have been difficult to cut the trailer. Graphic discussion of what happens to a woman’s body during pregnancy and childbirth. Vulgar jokes about birth control, menstruation, gynecology, pregnancy sex, pornography, flatulence . . . the list goes on. Several scenes where people scream at one another.
- Sex/Nudity: There are two sex scenes with Ben and Alison with no nudity per se, but both are graphic and leave little to the imagination. Pete and Ben go to a strip club and get lap dances from topless dancers. When an earthquake hits, Ben, his roommates, and their girlfriends all run out of the house in various states of undress. Ben and friends are developing a website that catalogs nudity in film. Several times throughout the movie you see them watching nude scenes on TV and talking about them crudely. Ben’s friends pantomime sex while he is on the phone with Alison. Several disturbing shots of the baby “crowning” during childbirth played for gross-out laughs.
- Violence: Ben and his friends wrestle and pummel each other during some “American Gladiator” style games they play.