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By Mark Bell | June 2, 2007

As a fan of Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen, I had been setting “Knocked Up” for huge disappointment the minute I heard it was in development. The expectations were unfair, but the comedic pairing (and word that Paul Rudd was in the mix too) had the film on a pedestal position too perfect for any film to live up to. Going into the screening, I realized that it might be good, might be funny, but it’ll likely never live up to my expectations. Leaving the theater, I realized I’m full of s**t, as my expectations were exceeded and “Knocked Up” rocked the house in ways I didn’t even imagine it could.

Meet Ben (Seth Rogen). Ben is a young web entrepreneur (read: slacker) who spends most of his time living off a small savings while hanging out with his best friends, slackers all. Convinced they’re sitting on the next internet goldmine, the gang watches films to record the exact time when a famous actress is seen naked, which they then add to their database which they intend to sell online. Original idea? Not at all, but they don’t know that.

Meet Alison (Katherine Heigl). Alison is an up-and-coming producer at E! Despite no doubt making a very nice salary, she lives with her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) and brother-in-law Pete (Paul Rudd). Everything in life appears to be roses for Alison, especially when she gets promoted to on-air talent.

To celebrate her new promotion, Alison and Debbie go out clubbing, running into Ben and his crew. Ben manages to charm Alison and, as the night goes on and alcohol consumption climbs, the two find themselves in a drunken one-night stand. A one-night stand that produces a child.

The subject matter is a universal rite de passage, the inevitable growing up one must do when a relationship begins to be more than just fun, and a family is slowly created. The film does a great job of handling all the dramatic aspects without dancing away from the comedy too long (if at all), keeping events fun and acceptable without becoming ponderous or painful (well, read on).

There are few movies I can think of where the laughs are as consistent as they are in “Knocked Up.” Try as I might, I can’t think of any chunk of the film where I wasn’t laughing. It’s actually a painful experience, all that gut-shaking, over the course of two hours but… it’s more like an ab workout you’ll be sore from later, entirely beneficial, so who’s complaining. I, and the audience I saw it with, laughed so hard and so often that I have to see the film again, because I’m convinced I only heard 50% of the film.

And all told, this scenario is a recipe for disaster. Ben and Alison are not the type of people you would expect to get together even in a drunken one-night stand, and they’re definitely not the type you would expect would fall in love with each other as the film progresses. It is a testament to both the acting chops of Rogen and Heigl that we can accept them as a couple, and a stronger testament to Judd Apatow for making the entire thing even remotely believable.

If you’ve never heard of Seth Rogen (and why haven’t you), that all changes now. Jack Black may be about to lose his “King of the Slacker-Geek” crown to Rogen, as “Knocked Up” not only proves that he can carry a movie, it proves he can carry a kick-a*s funny movie. And Katherine Heigl? If you’re a “Grey’s Anatomy” fan, you know all about her, but this film is a breakout performance for her as well (on top of the fact that she is, quite simply, one of the most gorgeously real-looking female actors around). Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd continue their roles as some of the most under-rated actors in all of Hollywood, elevating the film as some of the most realistic, and yet sadly uninspiring, examples of family couplehood and… is there anything negative I can say about this film? Is there?

Well, it is long. Apatow has a penchant for delivering long comedies (“The 40 Year Old Virigin” was long at a 116 minutes, and even longer at an Unrated Cut of 133 minutes). To his credit, however, he’s delivered very funny long comedies, so you doubt he’ll be reigned in anytime soon on that account until he delivers a bore-fest, and though “Knocked Up” feels long at times, in hindsight I can’t think of anything I’d want to trim down or have taken out entirely, as everything plays towards an important pay-off in the film.

When all is said and done, this is the film we’ve all been waiting for Apatow to make, especially those of us who have been following his career in both television and films. “Freaks and Geeks” was brilliant at getting the balance of comedy and drama down, and is the closest thing to “Knocked Up” I can think of in that regard, as even “The 40 Year Old Virgin” was a bit too absurdist at times (the most absurd thing about “Knocked Up” is Heigl and Rogen getting it on in the first place, but Hell, alcohol is as good an explanation as any on that count).

Believe the hype, “Knocked Up” is one of the funniest films of 2007. It’s too early in the year to crown it the supreme funniest title, but save for something so funny your head explodes in the theater, I think it’ll take the title by year’s end. Seth Rogen, we web slackers salute you!

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