I was in a wedding party with Judd Apatow sixteen
years ago ago. He's the writer and director of Knocked up.
We were both groomsmen for a mutual friend and he was just getting
ready to launch the Ben Stiller Show for Fox, but they
didn't have a name for it yet. At the time, getting to do a
prime-time sketch comedy seemed like a monumental achievement
to me. Apatow was an asshole, though. He looked and acted like
he had dyspepsia and that he wanted badly to be somewhere else,
where he could stand around, moaning and looking like he wanted
to be in yet another place. I'm not even sure he even bothered
to acknowledge our friend's joyous occasion.
I saw him a few times. I'm sure he has absolutely
no memory of it, but he always was an asshole to me. He also
never looked happy. I knew some pretty fucking funny people,
but I never heard him say anything that made me laugh. Well,
until I saw him open for Garry Shandling a few years later and
he did a bit where he wrote a letter back to the starving Korean
child he had adopted through a late-night TV infomercial, complaining
about how he had to clean his pool and his parents were so mean
and he hoped the kid enjoyed the bag of rice he bought him.
Anyway, I never had a good interaction with
the guy. I have no idea if he's cool now, or if he still looks
like someone shoved the Pepto-Bismol bottle up his ass. But
Boo-fucking-hoo. who gives a rat's ass? He makes quality shit
and that's the only thing that matters. Everyone is entitled
to be an asshole. One of the biggest misconceptions in our society
is that everyone should be nice. Everyone should be whatever
the fuck they want and karma can sort it all out. Nice is for
the waitress at Denny's, not for some writer who lives 1000
miles from you. The general public has no right to expect celebrities
to be nice or charming or witty. All we have a right to demand
is that the stuff they sell us is the best they can do. I don't
want to know Apatow, don't want to be his friend, but I do want
him to make good movies.
So far, he's done that. The guy hasn't made
This is Spinal Tap or even a classic, but he has made
stuff that has honest-to-god guts and heart and a sincere point
of view. That's fucking rare in Hollywood. Probably his masterpiece
is the TV show Freaks and Geeks, which was painfully,
brutally funny and tonally spot on. The episode where Bill Haverchuck
is hospitalized with a severe peanut allergy is among the finest
hours of television ever made. The 40-Year-Old Virgin
worked because Steve Carrell was a genuinely likable and well-intentioned
With Knocked Up, Apatow has made another
small, good movie. A loser (Seth Rogen) who lives with his best
friends in a filthy San Fernando Valley house somehow gets lucky
with a hot chick (Ketherine Heigl) who went out to celebrate
being promoted to being on-air talent at E! Rogen's big dream
in life is to launch a web site that documents every celebrity
nude scene. he has the social skills of, well, a kid that was
never allowed to leave military academy. Yet, he gets lucky
and, in the process, knocks up Heigl.
Turns out, despite Rogen being a neanderthal,
he's also decent and wants to be beside Heigl throughout the
pregnancy. Of course, after the one-night stand, Heigl discovers
what an unshaved ape he is, and has a hard time wanting to let
him back in. She's decent, too, though, and they try to make
I'm guessing there are a shitload of people
out there who lack that one thing in their relationship: the
ability to try. It's way easier blaming the other person, and
then getting so pissed off that you shut all the doors in your
brain that could lead to reconciliation, or even rationally
considering who is actually in the wrong, or whether it even
matters. Around here, it's easier to storm out, tell your friends
a lopsided version of the truth and then believe in the empty
condolences than it is to go back home, say sorry and figure
out how to make it all right.
Knocked Up is a meditation not so much
on pregnancy and childbirth. That stuff is the catalyst for
watching adults make adult decisions, and for a meditation on
what marriage, love and being together means. It ain't Ingmar
Bergman-deep, but Apatow clearly believes what he has to say.
Mirroring Heigl and Rogen are Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd, playing
Heigl's older sister and brother-in-law. They have one of those
shiny, superficial marriages that's like a motel that spreads
a clean, smooth sheet over a blood-stained mattress. You'd never
notice unless you pulled back the covers. They're afraid to
express their needs, and Rudd even has to sneak off to participate
in a fantasy baseball draft without telling her. She says that's
worse than cheating.
She's right; fantasy baseball is a refuge for
the most anal, pathetic men-children you'll ever find. God thing
Rudd's not in my league because I'd kick his ass with my deep
pitching and sleeper picks. And I could make him feel crummier
than his wife ever could with my relentless message-board taunting.
Regardless, the point that Apatow and the movie makes is that
married people need to have separate lives and some room to
be individuals, and also to wonder why the fuck their spouses
Wondering why people like them is a trend I
have found in almost every truly funny person I have ever met.
Once you start expecting or believing that people like you,
you really stop being funny. I spent ten years thinking that
any girl whose standards were so low she would date me must
not be worth dating. And when I found out a girl did like me,
my first question was "What's wrong with her?" After I met Mrs.
Filthy, I just made myself stop wondering and questioning. I
wake up every morning and think to myself, "Don't rock the boat,
don't rock the boat."
Knocked Up's comedy is largely provided
by moments of gross-out and pot humor. Rogen's roommates get
pink-eye from farting on each other's pillows. Martin Starr
bets his roommates he can not shave or cut his hair for a year,
and is called the Shoe-bomber relentlessly. It's funny and it
relieves the movie from what could be overly sentimental and
The movie wanders in its middle. Rogen and Rudd
go to Vegas, which is almost always a copout. Any time you see
a movie where two characters just head to Vegas, it's a lazy
filler and a cheap device to make otherwise lame plot points
or crucial dialogue feel more sparkly. By the end, as the baby
is about to be born and Rogen and Heigl have found a way to
love each other, the comedy gets shoved to the back for the
sake of wrapping up plot points, showing character growth and
flashing a few graphic shots of a baby's head popping out of
Unlike most shitty comedies that frontload the
gags and then spend too much time trying to resolve the issues
of characters they never convinced us to give a damn about,
Knocked Up takes the time to give us genuine characters
who try hard, are decent and actually mature. Even if the second
half isn't as funny as the first, we give a shit what happens.
In Holywood movies, that's like a bonus.
It's a fine movie and I like the characters,
even if I don't know the guy who created them. Four Fingers.