Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Knocked Up

I was extremely impressed by Knocked Up. Not only a funny movie, but a first rate film all around. I'm sure that a large number of you have already seen it, so maybe I'm not saying new here. But to describe the film to those who haven't seen it, I'd say it is 1/3 stoner comedy, 1/3 Woody Allen, and 1/3 Eric Rohmer. I saw it with Lyrad and another friend and it seemed that I liked it better than either of them. But then again, it fit into an overarching theme of films I like, which are really smart movies about romance and love. I hate most romantic comedies, but a really good movie about these universal themes is tough to beat. That's why I love Rohmer so much. A bit more distant, but the films of Yasujiro Ozu fit into this overarching theme as well. Rohmer, Ozu, Knocked Up--all enter into important discussions about love, family, obligation, romance, and sex (well maybe not sex for Ozu). It's unfair to compare Knocked Up with these other films, but it is in the same ballpark. That's why I liked the film more than The 40 Year Old Virgin. Virgin is funnier, but Knocked Up goes to a deeper level of human experience and does it amazingly well for what it is.

A few general comments:

1. Seth Rogen has a lot of potential. I suppose people have known that since "Freaks and Geeks," but he really would be perfect in a Woody Allen movie when Woody made worthwhile films. He's really funny and can act. It will be interesting to watch him develop.

2. We are really in a high point in the history of American comedic films. I suppose the last comparable period would have to be the early 1980s, when Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, John Candy, etc., were making really good work. Today, with Steve Carrell, Will Farrell, Rogen, and related comedic actors, we are seeing quality comedy coming out seemingly every month. Compare this to 10 years ago, when you actually saw films starring Rob Schneider. Good comedy is so hard to pull off that's it's a real treat when it happens. How long will this continue? Again, it's really hard to stay funny. Look at Ben Stiller. He has done little but dreck for the last few years. His next film hardly looks better. He's a tremendous comic actor. But either the roles aren't there anymore for some reason or he's gotten stale. I don't know. Probably the former. How long will Ferrell stay funny? How many sports movies can he do before the act gets old? Hard to know. But I'm savoring it while it lasts.

3. One thing that Judd Apatow does really well is give the jokes to the supporting cast while letting the main characters play out their story. The Indian guys (hell, the whole cast) in Virgin were terrific, letting Steve Carrell be funny but not too jokey. Same here. Rogen is a tremendously funny guy, and he told his share of jokes here, but it did not overwhelm the story. Again, the supporting cast was first rate here. Rogen's stoner friends did a good job and the jokes about the bearded guy were pretty funny. Leslie Mann as Debbie did a great job as did Kristen Wiig as the negative studio executive. Paul Rudd is always solid. And I'm always happy to see Harold Ramis and Loudon Wainwright III. Just a great cast all around.

4. Well, pretty great anyway. Katherine Heigl was fine. She was acceptable in that role. But she's not really funny in any way. She is certainly beautiful. But there lies the problem, not just with this movie but with the entire film industry. Seth Rogen is a fine looking guy but hardly is a sex symbol. He can have a major Hollywood career. Kristen Wiig was really freaking funny in the film. She's an attractive woman. But is she going to get leading roles? No, of course not. Because she's not stunningly beautiful. Not only does this reflect our society's inherent sexism, but it hurts the quality of films. Again, Heigl is good enough in this movie. But did she blow anyone socks off? Not through her acting. Should we expect to see her in 20 years? Probably not.

5. Not to nitpick, but it's always hard for me to accept things in movies that don't make sense. I'll suspend reality for the right movie and I did here. But it was hard to understand how a character who works as a personality for a major cable television network doesn't seem to have a salary. Heigl lives with her sister and is reliant on Rogen to support her and the baby afterwards??? Wouldn't someone in her position be pulling a 6 figure salary? That didn't spoil the movie for me but it was kind of absurd and problematic.