They both kinda put the whole thing behind 'em for...oh, eight weeks until Alison starts vomiting out of the blue. She rattles off the list of symptoms to her sister, and...yeah, that's the title of the movie in big, bold letters at the top of the page, so you already know the score. Ben's horrified by the news at first. Being a father...being shoved into adulthood...stomps on his plans of doing absolutely nothing for as long as he could get away it, but he agrees to step in and support Alison in whatever she decides to do. The rest of the movie follows Alison and Ben as they struggle with her pregnancy and try to figure out if there's anything more between them than a one-night stand and some haphazardly swapped bodily fluids.
Knocked Up feels like a natural follow-up to The 40 Year Old Virgin. It strikes that same balancing act with a hell of a lot of vulgarity and a genuine sort of sweetness at its core, but Knocked Up has more of an adult sensibility to it. Andy spent almost all of The 40 Year Old Virgin in a state of arrested development. He may have been middle aged, sure, but Andy had encased himself in a meticulously arranged bubble to keep himself from growing up, and he didn't break out of it until the very end of the movie. Ben would just as soon do the same -- only he's more into bongs and titty movies than Mego toys and die-cast lead figurines -- but he realizes early on that he needs to grow up and more or less goes along with it.
Writer/director Judd Apatow doesn't use Knocked Up as an excuse to toss in whatever dick jokes he'd been stockpiling for the past couple of years. He genuinely likes and respects these characters, and so much of what happens is drawn from his own experiences as a father-to-be that as hysterical as the movie often is, it also feels surprisingly real and sincere. Knocked Up treats pregnancy with quite a bit of gravity, and the way its characters fight -- particularly between on-screen husband and wife Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann -- can be unflinchingly cruel. Most filmmakers would water down the less glamorous side of love, romance, and parenthood or use them as a springboard for cheap, easy laughs, but Apatow is sharp enough to deftly balance the comedy with the drama. I read a post on DVD Talk's forums that summed up the movie as "a chick flick with guy jokes", and that's a pretty good way of putting it. This is definitely the only chick flick I've seen with a fart-induced pink eye epidemic, a visit to Cirque de Soleil on 'shrooms, and nods to Serpico and a coked-out Martin Scorcese.
The movie is perfectly cast. Katherine Heigl is a buxotic Amazon cut from the Russ Meyer cloth, sure, but she's also sweet, somehow sympathetic no matter how much her character's hormones may be raging, and sharp enough to hold her own with the rest of the cast. Seth Rogen joins a small army of Apatow regulars -- name just about any project the prolific producer has shepherded over the past decade and chances are at least six people from it are in here somewhere -- and it's a breakout role for him. Ben is slovenly but kind of endearing at the same time, enough so that I could almost buy someone with Heigl's good looks succumbing to his charms. His jaunt into adulthood feels natural and believable too, not just something in a montage penned by a screenwriter collecting a seven figure payday. There's something about the fact that Ben's roommates are played by actors who are all friends in real life that gives their loose, improvisational energy that much more spark.
There's a lot I like about Knocked Up, but it didn't quite grab me the way The 40 Year Old Virgin did. I respect the fact that Apatow gives a movie about pregnancy this somewhat serious, more adult bent, but that also means it's not as infectiously fun, and a DVD reviewer like myself can obviously relate better to not getting laid than leading a young woman through her first pregnancy. Alison may balloon up throughout the nine months this movie spans, but the most bloated thing about Knocked Up is its two hour plus runtime. There really aren't any specific scenes I feel the urge to yank out, but it really does start to feel exhausting after a while, especially in this extended cut of the movie that runs some four minutes longer than it did theatrically. Still, it's such a welcomed change of pace to see a comedy that feels like it's geared more towards adults than tit-crazed teens, and any flick that sets a sex scene to "Rock Lobster" and can make me almost like Ryan Seacrest has to be a hell of a movie.
Knocked Up didn't strike me as the sort of instant classic so many people heralded it as, but I did enjoy it, and I'm kind of left with the impression that the movie will grow on me more and more the next couple times through. Apatow doesn't knock it out of the park the way he did with The 40 Year Old Virgin, but Knocked Up still comes Highly Recommended.
Video: Yeah, the HD DVD of Judd Apatow's The 40 Year Old Virgin a few months back didn't exactly sparkle and shine in high-def, but Knocked Up's 1.85:1 presentation is pretty much perfect. It's exactly what you'd expect from a movie straight out of theaters: colorful, razor-sharp, and richly detailed. The photography has a much more polished look to it this time around, and film grain remains tight and unintrusive. I didn't spot any compression hiccups, and no speckling or assorted wear ever creep in. No complaints at all.
Audio: Universal's been more aggressive with lossless audio on quite a few of their recent releases, but Knocked Up isn't one of 'em. The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 soundtrack still sounds great, though. It's heavy on dialogue, naturally, and all of it comes through cleanly and clearly. The sound design is a bit more lively than usual for a comedy, making effective use of all of the channels on-hand to flesh out a strong sense of ambiance, and the soundtrack occasionally whips out a thumpin' low-end, particularly in the nightclub. It's not as dynamic or bombastic as a megaton action flick or anything, but this is a definite step up from the usual comedy mix.
A 5.1 French dub is also packed on, along with subtitles in English and French. Likewise for the DVD side of the combo disc which also serves up a Spanish subtitle stream.
Extras: This HD DVD of Knocked Up tacks on a couple of next-gen extras, but it loses a hell of a lot from the two disc DVD set. The list of stuff on the chopping block goes something like this: one of the takes with Seth Rogen topless for no reason in particular, raw, uncut takes of a pair of scenes, footage of Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann's kids on the loose, two live performances by Loudon Wainwright III, a featurette on the score, a half-hour faux-documentary about all of the actors Apatow churned through before landing on Seth Rogen (remember?), a jokey bit about an unseen sixth roommate, somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour of additional and alternate scenes, a barrage of even more quips about Martin's beard, a half hour set of video diaries, a featurette on comedian-slash-real life doctor Ken Jeong along with a bunch of his improvised dialogue, a few quick comments from Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen about shooting their first sex scenes, Katherine Heigl's audition tape, and even a couple of Easter Eggs.
Kudos to Universal for adding on a spiffed-up version of their U-Control interactivity along with some downloadable bells and whistles, but really, I'd just as soon swap them out for the rest of the DVD's extras instead.
Then again, maybe Universal's plan is to gradually make at least some of these other extras available online. As I write this, there are five additional scenes to download, running anywhere from just over 30 seconds to a minute and a half a pop. Several of 'em are pretty good -- particularly a quick bit of banter between the bigwigs at E! and a densely narrated gynecological exam with Dr. Kuni -- and it's kind of a drag that the great lead-up to Alison's first pregnancy test didn't make it into the extended cut of the flick. It seems kinda ridiculous to me that these weren't on the disc in the first place, but they are worth going to the trouble of downloading. Universal could potentially add more footage or swap things out at any time, so it'd be worth keeping an eye open.
Also exclusive to this HD DVD is a U-Control feature that overlays picture-in-picture video -- interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, mostly -- while watching the movie. Very little of this footage overlaps with any of the other extras on the disc, giving actors like Martin Starr, Katherine Heigl, and Mo Collins a chance to chime in. The feature also spends a bit of time on the make-up and mechanical effects, running through how the crew pulled off an earthquake sequence, what went into making Alison's prosthetic bellies, and the buckets of different colored pee for the pregnancy test scenes. The interviews often lean more towards that more promotional, EPK-style end of things, but there are some fairly insightful comments, such as Apatow pointing out his less conventional collision of age and immaturity as well as the way he approaches the positive messages in his films. The U-Control doesn't delve nearly as much in depth into the making of the movie as the audio commentary does, feeling kinda like a making-of doc chopped up and spread across the movie in fist-sized chunks, but I dug it enough to recommend giving it a look. It's also nice to see that Universal dropped the button mashing that made earlier U-Control releases such a hassle. Once picture-in-picture video is selected, it plays straight through without any further prompting, and this footage can still be disabled and re-enabled at will.
The rest of the extras are the same as they are on the DVD side of this combo disc, and considering the improvisational bent to Apatow's films, it kinda follows that almost all of 'em are deleted scenes or alternate takes, running just over a half hour in total. Not presented in any particular order are nearly twenty minutes' worth of deleted scenes. Ben's roommates get a lot more screentime, including a longer riff on the weak dick-to-tit ratio in modern cinema, wincing at birthing videos, and a really uncomfortable bedside chat about Ben's hypothetical daughter eighteen years down the road. There's also more in Vegas, another great gynecological exam (I feel so creepy typing that), and Alison interviewing a bloated Eva Mendes on E! There are also four extended and alternate scenes, among 'em another Seacrest rant, an unenthused chat with Owen Wilson on the red carpet, and a different spin on the scene in the diner with Seth Rogen and Harold Ramis. Rounding out the extra footage are a 30 second bit with Seth Rogen topless in an otherwise completely normal take, a better-than-average gag reel, and a few minutes' worth of the cast spewing out improvised lines or parrotting whatever Apatow shouts off-the-cuff.
By far my favorite of the HD DVD's extras is the audio commentary with Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, and Bill Hader. Apatow starts it off by saying that it's going to be a more serious commentary than he usually bangs out, but don't let that scare you off -- it's as hysterical and hypercaffeinated as anything else he's done. There are a lot of comments about how much of the movie is lifted from his home life, everything from putting his own family in as co-stars, age-inappropriate Google searches, shrugging off his wife's obsession with sex predator websites, the awkwardness of sex late in the pregnancy, earthquake-induced dementia, and getting booted from a car in the middle of nowhere, to rattle off more than I probably needed to. There's some chatter about what didn't make the cut: a close-up of a real kid squirting out of an actual vagina was nixed since California doesn't have pre-natal worker's permits, a red carpet brawl with Jennifer Garner, and another "Y'know how I know you're gay?" line-o-rama. Lots and lots of highlights: a real life Dirty Man competition, Seth taping Leslie Mann's drunken night out for reference material, failed Everybody Loves Raymond pitches, Spielberg's response to the improvised Munich conversation, and a play-by-play of what Tobey Maguire thought of each and every scene. Add in two scoops of Bill Hader lobbing out impressions on cue just for the hell of it, and this commentary is really even more fun than watching the movie itself.
Most DVDs pile on the featurettes, but there are only two on Knocked Up. One of 'em is a five minute look at the shoot at Knott's Berry Farm from the title sequence, focusing mostly on Jay Baruchel having a panic attack at the idea of getting on a roller coaster and following up with the Ziploc bags full of vomit from the rest of the cast as they rode the Silver Bullet again and again. The other featurette is a seven and a half minute spoof with Apatow struggling with Capote director Bennett Miller as he takes the reins on the shoot. Also included is a live performance by Loudon Wainwright III of "You Can't Fail Me Now".
All of the extras on this disc -- online and off -- are presented in standard definition and anamorphic widescreen. Also, even though the case lists the DVD side of the combo disc as housing the R rated cut of the movie, it's the unrated version as well.
Conclusion: Knocked Up isn't the laugh riot that The 40 Year Old Virgin is, but that's by design, really. If you can suspend disbelief enough that someone who looks like Katherine Heigl would let Seth Rogen plunge his man-organ inside her, it's a pretty honest look at unexpectedly being thrust into adulthood and the ups and downs of this sort of tumultuous relationship, peppered with enough vulgarity and pop-culture jabs to keep it from veering too far into chick flick territory. Knocked Up isn't perfect, but it's certainly one of the stronger comedies I've seen so far this year. The HD DVD looks and sounds great, although losing so many of the extras from the DVD collector's edition is a huge drag, enough that I'd bet even a lot of videophiles might pass on this high-def version in favor of the more decked-out DVD set. Even if this HD DVD isn't as lavish as it should've been, the overall package is still strong enough to deserve an emboldened, italicized Highly Recommended.