[Screen It]


(2007) (Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl) (R)

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Comedy: A man and woman try to forge a relationship, despite their obvious differences, when she ends up pregnant after their one-night stand.
Alison Scott (KATHERINE HEIGL) is a single woman who's just been offered an on-air job at an entertainment-based cable TV channel. When not working, she hangs out and lives with her sister, Debbie (LESLIE MANN), her husband Pete (PAUL RUDD), and their two young kids. The couple isn't so happily married, mainly because of Debbie always complaining about Pete, so they're not exactly the best role models for Alison regarding married life.

Then again, they're worlds ahead of Ben Stone (SETH ROGEN), an unemployed slacker and pot-head who's trying to launch a website -- that lists celebrity nude scenes in movies -- with his friends Jay (JAY BARUCHEL), Jonah (JONAH HILL), Jason (JASON SEGEL), and Martin (MARTIN STARR).

One night, while out at a bar, Alison and Ben meet, drink, hit it off, and end up having a one-night stand. Eight weeks later, she discovers she's pregnant, decides to keep the baby, and contacts Ben to inform him that he's the father.

He's initially taken aback, much like his friends, but he eventually realizes the right thing to do is be the child's father, meaning he and Alison must become a couple. As their friends and family observe from the sidelines, the unlikely duo try to forge a relationship, despite their obvious differences, as her pregnancy continues.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
In much of young America, most everything sex-related is filled with misinformation, anxiety and/or fear. The latter two obviously stem from the former, but they also come from worries about learning about sex (especially if the parents serve as the educators), one's virginity and how long to keep that intact, and once that boundary is crossed, the possibility of contracting some sort of disease and/or pregnancy.

As the title obviously suggested, The 40-Year-Old Virgin" tackled that part of the fear equation in a bawdy yet surprisingly charming and heartfelt comedy that made a star of lead actor Steve Carrell. Having gotten that part of sexual experience out of the way, those responsible for that film now tackle the pregnancy part in the appropriate but bluntly titled "Knocked Up."

Hoping that lightning will strike twice, writer/director Judd Apatow pretty much follows the same formula as before. He even enlists some of the "Virgin" performers here in an effort to remind viewers of the previous attempt in hopes that he might mine the same sort of result.

While it has some funny, amusingly crude and outrageous moments, it's nowhere as entertaining as its predecessor, and for a variety of reasons. First and foremost is that Seth Rogen is no Steve Carrell. Having appeared as one of the amusing sidekicks in "Virgin," the actor just isn't up for the demands of the lead, mostly because of the way his role has been constructed.

While Carrell's title character was a sex-obsessed nerd, he had certain qualities with which many men could identify, and others that made him appealing to just as many women. Mixing faux masculine bravado, dejection over his past and present, and hope for the future, he was a surprisingly complex creation for such a film that easily could have been just a midlife version of "Porky's."

Here, Rogen's character is an unemployed, opportunistic druggie who gets Katherine Heigl's character pregnant via a drunken one-night stand (an unlikely occurrence -- considering their polar opposite looks, behavior, and futures -- no matter how much alcohol she ingested). The humor is supposed to stem from his reaction (and that of his similar friends) to that development, while the charm is designed to arise from how he grows as a person while falling for her in a kicking and screaming -- via drugged stupor -- sort of way.

There's obviously potential in them thar unplanned pregnant hills, but the fact that Ben isn't as easy to identify and/or sympathize with as Andy Stitzer was turns into something of an unfortunate miscalculation. Feeling more forced and artificially constructed than its predecessor, the character didn't engage me as much as he should have, and I imagine that feeling (or lack thereof) will be even stronger among the fairer sex.

Perhaps more striking are the sidekick characters who were often hilarious in "Virgin," but feel contrived and forced here. While the returning performers play different personas, they and the new additions simply come off as trying to be whacky and outrageous for no other reason than being just that. At least in "Virgin" they had a purpose -- helping the protagonist lose his virginity -- but here they are just around as sounding boards and/or presumably amusing interludes.

Yes, some of the material is funny and other moments are at least amusing, but little if any is truly hilarious, and the hit to miss ratio isn't as high as it should be considering the setup and the filmmaker's reputation for handling this sort of material.

Playing opposite Rogen, Heigl inherits the straight woman bit from Catherine Keener in the last film and is generally fine in the role, while "Virgin" veterans Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann get some fairly significant subplot material as an unhappily married couple that obviously isn't a good role model example for the expectant parents.

I'll readily admit I laughed at various points, but the film simply can't and doesn't live up to the lofty expectations created by its predecessor or having many returning faces both in front of and behind the camera. With a less appealing lead, fewer laughs, and too readily apparent puppeteer strings in play, "Knocked Up" would seem to have the appearance of a full-term comedy, but it just doesn't deliver like it should. The film rates as a 4.5 out of 10.

Reviewed April 16, 2007 / Posted May 1, 2007

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