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MOVIE REVIEW: Much of 'Knocked Up' fun comes in delivery

So much of the fun comes in the delivery

Rene RodriguezMiami HeraldPublished: Friday, June 1, 2007

Ben (Seth Rogen), the burly protagonist of the riotously funny Knocked Up, is essentially a younger version of the titular hero of writer-director Judd Apatow's first film, The 40 Year-Old Virgin: An overgrown man-child, a social outcast who uses his infantile, comfort-blanket pursuits -- video games, movies, bong hits -- to avoid confronting the realities of having to grow up.

Apatow writes his characters from the inside-out, mocking their ridiculous natures while displaying a deep empathy and understanding of what makes them tick. Ben is 23 years old but has never had a job in his life. He's a Canadian citizen residing illegally in the United States and is planning to get rich with his houseful of like-minded, pothead roommates by creating a website that catalogs the nude scenes of famous actresses down to the exact minute. In the strata of world-class losers, Ben must hover somewhere near the top, yet you take an instant liking to him, because he's so content and happy with the dead-end rut he's built for himself, and he's still young enough -- and displays enough wit and smarts -- to suggest he has the potential to snap out of it before his arrested development starts seeming creepy.

In Knocked Up, that motivation comes in the form of Alison (Grey's Anatomy's Katherine Heigl), a beautiful TV reporter who gets drunk celebrating a job promotion and winds up taking Ben home with her for the night. The disbelieving, equally drunk Ben doesn't question his good fortune: He's so delighted by this rare sexual opportunity, he even dispenses with the act of putting on a condom when Alison starts feeling impatient.

The next morning, over breakfast, cooler heads prevail. Alison gets a look at Ben in broad daylight and is silently horrified. Ben pretends nothing is wrong but knows he will probably never hear from Alison again. But he does, about six or seven weeks later, when Alison informs him she is pregnant with his baby.

The rest of Knocked Up centers on Ben's efforts to become a responsible adult and father-to-be after the couple decide to have the baby together. What's most surprising about the film is how Apatow never loses your attention -- and never stops coming up with explosively funny situations -- while adhering to a perfectly predictable plot in which the couple separates and reunites time and again over the span of nine months, leading up to the climactic delivery-room finale.

Apatow surrounds Ben and Alison with characters who serve as foils for their personal dilemma, such as Alison's sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) and her husband Pete (Paul Rudd), who appear to have a storybook marriage complete with two precocious daughters, but are secretly consumed by a profound unhappiness and frustration that bubbles to the surface at unexpected moments in hilariously profane ways (one scene, in which a casual conversation between husband and wife ends up with Debbie hurling outrageous insults at Pete, beautifully encapsulates the vague rage between spouses that often lurks beneath the most placid of domestic veneers).

Knocked Up is filled with comic exchanges and bits of business that, while not essential to the central plot, keep the movie's comedic energy chugging (like Debbie's throwdown with a doorman at a popular nightclub who won't let her in because she's too old, or a little girl who proudly announces ''You know what I did the other day? I Googled murder!'') It also has several setpieces, like Ben and Alison's disastrous attempt to have pregnant sex, that give the picture the hallmarks of a contemporary comedy classic. But what ultimately makes the film so satisfying is the seriousness and affection with which Apatow treats his characters, no matter how drug-addled or misguided they may be. Growing up is hard to do, but Knocked Up argues the rewards are always worth the effort.