Knocked Up 

Four Stars (R)

Knocked Up is written and directed by Judd Apatow, the man behind last year’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which is all most of you will need to know. For those who missed Virgin, a deft blend of a raunchy R-rated comedy and a disarmingly sweet relationship story, I’ll do my best to tell you what to expect without giving away any of the jokes.

Judd Apatow, a former writer for The Larry Sanders Show and creator of the celebrated, short-lived TV series Freaks and Geeks, is a smart man with a gift for creating riotous comedies that feel genuine. Like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up is packed with extremely rude humor that is more effective than most R-rated fare because he keeps his characters and situations as real as possible.

The premise is simple. A gorgeous woman and a pudgy stoner have a drunken, one-night stand. She ends up pregnant and decides to keep the baby. He wants to do the decent thing, so they try to build a relationship. There you go: The Odd Couple meets She’s Having a Baby, only with lots of outrageous remarks and nearly as many “fucks” as Goodfellas.

Be prepared. Though Knocked Up is packed with big laughs, equal attention is paid to the story of the mismatched couple’s rocky journey through the birth process. Including the closing credits, the film is two hours and 12 minutes, quite a long time for a comedy, but of course, this isn’t just a comedy. I was concerned going in about the running time, but the production maintains a steady pace and I can’t cite a scene I would have cut.

Seth Rogen, the easygoing marijuana aficionado from The 40-Year-Old Virgin, plays Ben Stone, an affable layabout who spends most of his time hanging around with his roomies (Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel and Martin Starr) getting stoned, playing video games, bantering and working on their big project, creating a commercial Internet database that catalogs celebrity nude scenes in movies. Wait a minute, some of you might say; there are already numerous Web sites like that. Shhh, don’t tell the boys, they’ll find out soon enough.

Katherine Heigl from Grey’s Anatomy plays Alison Scott, who just received a promotion to on-camera correspondent for the E! Entertainment cable network (check out Kristen Wiig from SNL as a passive-aggressive co-worker). When not climbing the career ladder, she spends a lot of time with her uptight sister (Leslie Mann) and her frustrated husband (Paul Rudd, great as usual). Oh, what role models.

Many of the situations in the film are standard issue, such as Ben’s concerns over having sex during the pregnancy, but they work because the characters, wonderfully played by a great cast, are credible and the humor seems natural. Jaw-droppingly crude at times, but natural.

I’m not sure whether Knocked Up is better than The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I am sure that the movie will have a spot on my Best of 2007 list.

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