[SPOILERS, even though the movie’s a week old.]
Judd Apatow is a director after my own heart. He cares about jokes and characters; he doesn’t care as much about plots. The best evidence we’ll (probably) ever have is the dada ending of The 40-Year Old Virgin, when Steve Carrell finally gets a piece of the pie* and the glory of the event is captured by an elaborate song-dance sequence set to “The Age of Aquarius.” So the only flaw of Knocked Up is substantial, and it’s the way the perfect pace of the movie slips in the last 45 minutes. Before Ben and Allison have their fight in the car (is that a spoiler? Meh.), both leads are given a similar amount of screen time, the time lapse is marked by title cards (8 weeks, 14 weeks, etc). After that fight it really seems like – and I know movies are not edited this way – everyone was in a room with 24 hours left to finish the cut and Apatow said “Oh, shit! We need to wrap this up!” The stuff with Allison’s job, in particular, stops making sense. She complains about “sacrificing” her job, but we find out she kept her job. When she goes into labor she’s obsessed with natural birth after having never mentioned it.
All that said, I love love loved this movie. I knew 30 minutes in that I’d be quoting to it and referring back to it for years, that I’ll show it to friends and they’ll mostly be glad I showed to them. And let me explain why the other critics are wrong.
– The suspected infidelity subplot. It’s good it wasn’t cut, actually. This might actually be the subplot Apatow handles the best. In the end it’s essential that Paul Rudd’s character (ugh, names) has a parallel storyline and that he ends up falling back into the rhythm of his marriage with such “why not?” ease.
– The “hot girl falls for ugly guy” cliche. She falls for a schlubby guy, yes. She falls for him because he is smart and funny and resourceful (in bars, at least). It’s very, very different than the cliche that I think pisses critics off, the one that pisses me off too – the hot girl falling for the schlubby dumb guy. Ben never does anything truly dumb like you’ll see on an average episode of King of Queens or According to Jim or Scarborough Country. He smokes pot and lazes around, but that’s because he lacks motivation. This isn’t a “fat guy with hot chick” movie. It’s a “nice guy gets the girl and is changed” movie.
– Allison’s life is improved by the pregnancy and the relationship with Ben. Maybe Heigl is just too inexpressive an actress to pull this off or maybe she really isn’t written well enough, but when the movie starts she’s in almost as deep a rut as Ben. She lives with her married sister, she has absolutely zero female friends, she’s shallow and sort of acknowledges it (at one point saying to Ben “I’m so glad I like you, I never like guys like you.” Ben responds: “You keep saying that.”). Her career’s going great, and it seems imperiled by the pregancy, but in the end her prospects actually improve. (Can I say I adore the way Apatow wastes no time on the “woman’s pregnancy imperils her career” yawner plot?)
The more I think about it, the more interesting Allison is. Why doesn’t she have any female friends? Are the old friends she runs into outside the baby-stuff store people she’s abandoned as she’s focused on her career? What rotten experiences did she have with cute guys, un-Ben-like guys, in the past? Maybe only a longer and less-funny movie could spell that out.
Oh, and the final shot of the couple driving to East L.A. on the Pacific Coast Highway? Ha!
UPDATE: I notice that the Flick Filosopher hated the movie and thinks it’s immature. It’s really obviously not immature. If the movie was three declarative sentences, they would be: “Hey, self-obsessed twentysomethings! Stop indulging yourselves and delaying responsibility and move on to marriage and child-rearing. It seems like it’ll suck, and it sort of does, but only after you take the plunge do you realize how silly you were for delaying it.”