I wish I could jump on the bandwagon of critics who have been tripping over their own feet in an effort to out-praise each other when it comes to Judd Apatow and his critical darling, “Knocked Up,” and it’s not as if I haven’t tried. But I just don’t get it.
From where I sit, “Knocked Up,” Apatow’s sophomore effort as a director, is a modest, companionable, surprisingly endearing little film. No more, no less. I saw it, enjoyed it and and then got on with my life, letting the film evaporate from the recesses of my mind. At this point, it’s a dim memory, unlike Apatow’s first film, 2006’s “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” which still echoes in my mind with it low comedy and big heart.
It’s apparent – to me, at least - that Apatow was aiming for the same results and, to be honest, he nearly matches his first success. But “Knocked Up” is more raunchy and less poignant than it’s predecessor. In fact, it isn’t touching at all. It also has a leading man, Seth Rogan, who is a good deal less appealing and charismatic than “Virgin’s” Steve Carell, and at 129 minutes, there’s a certain straining here and a lot of dead spots.
But for some reason, the critics have felt obliged to exalt Apatow. The very credible Andrew Sarris actually compared him to Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder in his review in The New York Observer. I realize that anyone who cares about the future of movies – critics, film buffs, even studio executives - is desperate to find a new filmic hero, someone with all the answers and remedies for what ails current movies, but isn’t it a tad premature and hasty to elevate Apatow after only two films?
Not that “Knocked Up” doesn’t have its excellent spots, chief of which is Katharine Heigl, who turns in an empathetic, fully formed performance as the female lead.
As for the material here – about a guy forced into maturity by a woman’s unexpected pregnancy - I preferred it back in 1963 when Robert Mulligan directed Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen in “Love with the Proper Stranger,” a more naturalistic, affecting treatment of the subject which is often even more witty than “Knocked Up.”
(Artwork: Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen in "Knocked Up"; Poster art for "Love with the Proper Stranger")
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