Judd Apatow had tremendous success with The 40 Year Old Virgin. Hot on the heels of the sex comedy that successfully meshed with romantic comedy, Apatow tries the same formula on Knocked Up. Always picking up roles that were more supportive than anything, Seth Rogen gets his chance to shine this time around. Ever since he appeared on Freaks and Geeks, he's consistently upped the ante with every performance. Seth was good in small doses, but would he get obnoxious as the star of a feature length film? And more importantly, would Apatow have success with his formula once again? Thankfully, the answer to both of these questions is 'yes'.
It's a pretty scary thing when you've been going out with someone for a while and then all of a sudden, pregnancy comes into the picture. What do you do? What don't you do? Can the two of you handle it? Is she just late? There are so many questions and frankly, reading what I just wrote even scares me a little! It's a life experience though, and a lot of people have to ask themselves these questions at one time or another.
Another one of life's experiences is trolling for booty at the local dance club. What would you do if you grabbed a hot piece of ass you never would have stood a chance with, except for the assistance of booze of course, and found out some time later that you two were going to be parents because of a drunken one night stand? That's exactly what happened to Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) and Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl).
Ben is a stoner that lives with a bunch of friends. Their goal to achieve success consists of watching movies for T and A, and getting high. Alison is a screen talent for the E! network. Two completely different lifestyles, but they decide to try and tolerate each other for the sake of the child, as they've decided to go through with the pregnancy. They even try their hand at actually being in a relationship.
Apatow's prior film was able to mix a foul mouthed sex comedy with romance, and Knocked Up does the same. Combining these two aspects made The 40 Year Old Virgin hover near the two hour mark, and actually exceeded that with the unrated version. Knocked Up in its theatrical form alone surpasses the two hour mark, and only adds a few minutes of footage for the unrated version.
It's a bold move for a comedy to go over two hours in length. Despite its runtime though, the story actually filled the time better than in The 40 Year Old Virgin. There was a lot more focus on an important aspect a film like this deserves; self discovery, and we can attribute this to the runtime that doesn't at all seem painful.
When do you suck it up and just deal with what life gives you? What causes you to put away bad habits so you can better your future? Obviously, there are a lot of events that have to occur when facing these kinds of questions, and examining these justifies the length of the film. A lot of self growth needs to come from the main characters, especially Ben. I mean after all, at the beginning of the movie we're looking at Alison who works on camera for E!, and Ben is a pot smoking, professional titty spotter.
There's a very nice supporting cast in this film, including Johan Hill (Grandma's Boy, Superbad ), Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks), Jay Baruchel (Undeclared), and Jason Segel (Freaks and Geeks).
However, the most important supporting roles belong to Alison's sister, Debbie (Leslie Mann - Big Daddy), and her husband Pete (Paul Rudde - The 40 Year Old Virgin). These characters add much more to the story than the supporting cast from The 40 Year Old Virgin, because they go on a roller coaster of self discovery as well. They already have children, and after seeing the different lifestyles both Ben and Alison have, they begin to reevaluate their own lives. They even frighten Ben and Alison for a while with their already bleak outlook on life, which stems from their marriage and kids.
Where The 40 Year Old Virgin felt as if it rigidly changed up its style halfway through the film, Apatow has been able to blend these two things together for the entirety of Knocked Up masterfully. This adds a better sense of reality to the movie, and makes our feelings for the two lead characters continue to grow for the full length of the film. It's in this aspect that Knocked Up trumps Apatow's prior effort, and that says a lot, considering that was a pretty good movie.
Both versions of the film are presented on this Blu-ray disc. As I mentioned earlier, we're splitting hairs between the theatrical and unrated cuts. The theatrical cut runs at one hundred and twenty nine minutes, where the unrated cut only boasts four extra minutes of material. It's another attempt from a film company to seduce you by flashing 'unrated' on the cover artwork. I feel that boasting an unrated cut that really doesn't offer much else is rather unnecessary. What's more important though, is that the viewer is given the choice to pick the version of the film they want. Maybe it's just me, but I actually consider that option a bigger selling point, don't you?
Considering The 40 Year Old Virgin is getting its Blu-ray debut on the same day as Knocked Up and was less than impressive, you might be a little concerned as to the quality of the transfer that's featured here. But fear not, it's actually pretty decent, minus a few issues.
This film is presented on the Blu-ray release as a 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode, with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Let's cut right to the chase, shall we? This release has some minor issues, but DNR and edge enhancement are not amongst them. Go ahead and spark up a cigarette to calm your nerves, I know this was something you were worried about.
The image at times appeared to look a little warm. A lot of the colors in this movie are bright, so I'm not sure if this was an attempt to try and make them look even better for Blu-ray, but the end result gives us some flesh tones that look a little off at times. Black levels are excellent however, and the whites seem to be a bit brighter than usual, but never feel like they're completely overblown. This was probably more of an artistic choice than from the transfer.
All in all, there's plenty of detail on this release at times, and it's quite a bit better than The 40 Year Old Virgin. However the amount of detail you'll see varies from scenes to scene. At times it's amazingly lifelike, other times, it looks like a bit more like film, but with a small loss of detail.
There is grain you're going to see, but this is probably from the film, and not the transfer. I'm glad to see that Universal kept the look of the film for this release. It's still not a Blu-ray title that can be considered top tier, but it's pretty good overall.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track sounds pretty darn good. It's a comedy, so most of what you're going to hear is dialogue. It comes across clean without any sort of distortion, and it never gets muddled to where certain dialogue sounds quieter than the rest. The rear channels are used bit to provide subtle background noise when applicable. It's a nice job of mixing as the rears are never loud just for the sake of being loud. The only time the rear channels do get a nice workout is when there's music pumping over the film. The music all around fills nicely without overstepping the dialogue to the point where you have to struggle to hear, and the bass gets quite a performance when the music is on.
Recently I've reviewed a couple of romantic comedies on Blu-ray, and this definitely stands as one of the better ones I've heard from the genre. The audio is definitely worth the upgrade over the SD version.
U-Control is here, and what we're able to experience with it is picture in picture video that plays along with the movie. There's a lot here to see, and it's put together in a pace that keeps this entertaining throughout. While watching the film itself, you'll see behind the scenes footage, interviews with a bunch of the cast members, and more. The picture in picture idea was pulled off very well for this release. Sometimes you get a video version of a commentary, and at other times we get something special. This time we get the latter.
Commentary with Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, and Bill Hader - After I heard the good times roll with The 40 Year Old Virgin commentary, I was expecting another one that would be just as funny and entertaining. Well my expectations were met and then some, because I had a blast listening to these guys shoot the shit. They're funny and informative, without making any of its one hundred and thirty three minute runtime seem like it was 'business as usual'.
Deleted Scenes - We have nineteen minutes worth of deleted material to watch, and most of it is pretty damn funny. Most deleted scenes are obvious throw away material, but it seems that Apatow makes his cuts for the flow of his film, and not so much for filming crap to begin with.
Extended/Alternate Scenes - There's only eight minutes worth of material here, but like the deleted scenes it's all gold.
Line-O-Rama and Raw Footage - There was something similar to this on The 40 Year Old Virgin release. What we have here are multiple variations of certain dialogue being performed. Rogen and crew work fairly well when they're in a laid back atmosphere saying whatever comes to their mind. It's always interesting to see actors saying things that aren't in the script, so don't miss out on these featurettes.
Beard-O-Rama - Four minutes long, this feature is all about the big beard Martin Starr had to sport for the film. We see him sitting in his trailer complaining about it, and in between his complaints are some clips from the movie that rip on him for having it.
Gag Reel - It's only three minutes long, but when you have Rogen and crew as your talent, the gag reel is worth every second.
Kids on the Loose - Five and a half minutes worth of the two child actors in the film having some fun. It's a feature we could have done without. I could care less about the their antics on the set. I know, I'm a heartless jerk.
Finding Ben Stone - There's some great things about this twenty nine minute featurette, as well as some other things that hold it back. This is a fake documentary that focuses on finding the right actor to play the part of Ben Stone. You can watch certain scenes re-enacted as part of the process, with big name stars. And not just people that are friends with Rogen and Apatow, but Orlando Bloom got in on the gag too! It's an inventive featurette that's loaded with laughs, but it could have been a little tighter than twenty nine minutes.
Directing the Director - This is another documentary style gag. This one is seven minutes long, but for a feature that felt unnecessary itself, that's about four or five minutes too long. We're lead to believe that Universal wanted to have Apatow kicked to the curb. It's a funny bit, but it's a little too long. Perhaps they should have found some way to incorporate this into the Finding Ben Stone featurette?
Gummy: The 6th Roommate - The 'it's funny because it's not true' gag is getting a little tiresome at this point. I want to see stuff that's actually about the movie, you know? This featurette is about six minutes long, and focuses on a roommate character that decided to bail to be in a Woody Allen movie instead. At this point, we've seen a total of forty two minutes of fake trickery for comedic effect. That's basically a one hour program with the commercials cut out. Let's hope there's something of substance on the next feature...
Rollercoaster Doc - Four minutes of filming the opening rollercoaster sequence. As someone who is interested in the movie itself, I'd like to hear a lot more than just the shooting of the rollercoaster scene. Four minutes is stretching it for how long this should have been, and as a feature all by itself, is fairly disappointing.
Kuni Files - Ken Jeung, who was hilarious as the doctor that had little as a barrier between brain and mouth, sits down for six minutes to tell us about his scene in the film.
Kuni Gone Wild - But this is the real Kuni feature you want to watch. This is a five minute version of the scene where Kuni is talking to Alison about what to expect as she's getting ready to have the baby. Kuni is a riot and remains very serious, and the other actors in the scene are doing their best not to burst out laughing and ruin the scene. This is a definite must if you sit down to watch the special features.
Topless Scenes - We go back to the fake-out film clips once again, as we see Seth acting out a couple of the scenes in the movie without a shirt on. Although this isn't necessary, it's funny the first time you watch it. Partly because everyone is so serious while Seth is sitting there without a shirt on, and partly because it was a 'gotcha' gag that worked... at least on me. I was terribly disappointed but found humor in it afterwards. It doesn't really have any replay value though.
Stripper Confidential - Apatow takes us behind the scenes to watch him film the scene that featured some Vegas strippers. Apatow even goes as far to mention that he felt very comfortable directing t and a compared to his prior film effort, and he may even find a backup career in doing that sort of thing. It's sort of funny to see how excited Apatow is, but it's not really a feature I'd consider a keeper.
First Sex on Cam - Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill talk to the audience for a minute and a half about what it's like to do your first sex scene. Basically, that means that they're giving us pointers on how not to get an erection while filming your scene. I'm not sure I could film a fake sex scene with Katherine Heigl as she's clad in only her underwear, and walk away without popping an erection even once. In fact...
Video Diaries - This feature is a half an hour long, and it's basically just Apatow telling us in between takes how the film is going. It's nice when a director cares enough to do this sort of thing, because we get a good amount of behind the scenes information from the director himself.
Katherine Heigl Audition - This is pretty self explanatory, and in my opinion, worth a viewing. It's obvious to the viewer why someone may have been chosen for a part after seeing the final product, but what got an actor or actress their role? Short at three minutes, but sweet.
Also on this release is a feature that shows famous musician Loudon Wainright III recording some music for the film. On top of that, we also get some performance footage of him as well.
Overall, the extra features are plentiful but not always necessary. I got a lot of laughs from the fake documentary footage that was created solely for the DVD, but didn't really feel like I got the best inside look of the film that I wanted.
Knocked Up is the follow up to Apatow's 40 Year Old Virgin, and in many ways shows the audience that Apatow has learned a lot since his prior effort. The blending of comedy and romance is done masterfully this time around, as opposed to breaking off into a completely new direction halfway through the film. The supporting cast provides an excellent ability for the main characters to act and react, as they provide a look into what their future may hold. It's a film that's both hilarious and touching, and once again, Apatow has created something that even couples can sit down together and be satisfied with.
I'll definitely recommend this title. It's not a top tier looking Blu-ray release, but it's a fairly accurate representation of what this movie would have looked like on film. There's inconsistantly a great amount of detail, but a very fine coating of grain remains on an otherwise very clean print. The extras are overly excessive and often miss the mark, but there's plenty of solid material that's fun and worth seeing again and again, especially the U-Control picture in picture. If you're a fan of this film, it should probably make it into your Blu-ray collection. If you've never had the chance to see it before, then the Blu-ray version over the standard DVD is a no brainer.