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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

KNOCKED UP (article first published : 2007-10-9)

Writer-director Judd Aptow has been receiving some lavish praise for this, his first comedy since his hit The 40 Year Old Virgin.

And while I’m not quite up there loudly whooping and crowing, there can be no denying Knocked Up is an enjoyable, captivating work that neatly delivers as both bawdy comedy, with some magical lines and situations, and as sweet romance.

However, the movie has to lose points for going on way too long at two-hours-plus. And the real fly in the ointment – and it is a rather big one – is that one never fully believes the basic premise of the plot.

I mean, really, guys, are we really gullible enough to believe, even for a second, that nerdy Ben Stone (Seth Rogen), a chubby, curly-topped weed addict, jobless and a slacker to boot, is going to attract the attention of one of the hottest blonde around (we’re talking Grey’s Anatomy’s Katherine Heigl, people)? And not only does bulky Ben win this all-American beauty’s attention, he also gets her to tumble into bed with him, bring him coffee in the morning when she is sober, agree to have breakfast with him and pass on her phone number.

Heigl’s character is Alison Scott – a role originally intended for Anne Hathway, I hear – and she meets scruffy Ben when she goes on the town to celebrate her promotion from crew assistant to red-carpet presenter on television’s E! Entertainment channel.

It’s when the booze bites and she lets down her guard that she goes wild with party-animal Ben and eight weeks later, as the film title implies, she has to confront him with news that she is pregnant. Contrary to her mother’s advice, Alison wants to keep the baby and wins support from Ben. They agree it would be in their - and their baby’s - interest to get to know one another better before making any hasty decisions.

So we get a story which, centred on opposites attracting, if not without some stumbling and tumbling, is peppered with amusement stemming as much from Ben and Alison’s quirky relationship as it does from situations involving Ben’s quartet of slacker pals and Alison’s control-freak sister (Leslie Mann) and stressed brother-in-law (Paul Rudd), who are having marital wobbles.

Humour also comes from some fun little cameos from stars who deftly send up their own images – notably E! News presenter Ryan Seacrest and comedian Steve Carrell. Rogen exudes a certain awkward charm, but it’s the lovely Heigl, a recent Emmy-winner for Grey’s Anatomy, who most impresses, bringing a fetching mix of vulnerability, fear and bewilderment to her role as Alison. She also cranks up the comedy to a hilarious high in a hospital scene that is not only very funny but, it should be noted, quite startlingly graphic for its 13 age restriction. (7/10) – Billy Suter




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