(director/writer: Judd Apatow; cinematographer: Eric Edwards; editors: Brent White/Craig Alpert; music: Loudon Wainwright and Joe Henry; cast: Seth Rogen (Ben Stone), Katherine Heigl (Alison Scott), Paul Rudd (Pete), Leslie Mann (Debbie), Jason Segel (Jason), Jay Baruchel (Jay), Jonah Hill (Jonah), Harold Ramis (Ben’s Dad), Martin Starr (Martin), Charlyne Yi (Jodi), Iris Apatow (Charlotte), Maude Apatow (Sadie), Alan Tudyk (Jack), Kristen Wiig (Jill), Ken Jeong (Dr. Kuni), Craig Robinson (Doorman), Loudon Wainwright III (Dr. Howard); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Shauna Robertson/Clayton Townsend/Judd Apatow; Universal Pictures; 2006)
“For those who think things are getting too mushy, giving in too much to appeal to a conservative audience, the bawdy humor always seems to be around to keep things in check.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Judd Apatow’s follow-up to The 40-Year-Old Virgin is a curious balancing act of outrageous raunchy humor (appealing to the Animal House crowd) and, on the other hand, is coated with heavy amounts of sugary sentimental heartfelt romantic moments (appealing to The Love Story crowd). It plays out as a geeky male fantasy film, that poses moral dilemmas for the modern generation regarding careers, romances, parenting and growing up pains. This time the film’s male protagonist is a slovenly garbed idler, who has sex with an upward mobile classy careerist chick adorned in tailor-made pants suits; he now must face up to his adult responsibilities when she gets pregnant and seeks his support. The romance between the opposites seems highly unlikely, but it could happen in real-life. It starts out cynical but by the end is squarely in the camp of the family value crowd, moving to the side of those who believe that love can still be built from flawed relationships and that children make one’s life a delight. To do that, it walks through a minefield of sitcom clichés and is spared from stepping on a mine only by its profane edgy humor and the convincing acting by the two leads Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl.
The sitcom story, traveling through territory reserved for mainstream America, is too cloying to be winsome in itself, but the film provided much snide comedy and some belly laughs to keep things rolling; its comedy ranges from farting to slacker to gynecology-inspired jokes.
It tells of the Jewish, nerdy, obese, scruffy-looking, weed smoking layabout Ben Stone (Seth Rogen), who has four similar deadbeat roommates: Jonah (Jonah Hill), Jason (Jason Segel), Jay (Jay Baruchel), and Martin (Martin Starr). The fun-loving boys have no income but are setting up a web site called ‘flesh of the stars’ which lists the exact times when movie stars appear nude in the film. The 23-year-old Ben goes clubbing one evening and unexpectedly meets the gorgeous WASP blonde, newly promoted to be an on-air TV hostess for E!, Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl), and after getting drunk they have a one-night stand, which she’s sorry about in the morning. Some eight-weeks later Alison flips out that she’s pregnant from someone she never would consider as marriage material, but does a pro-life thing to keep the baby and contacts Ben because she wants some moral support.
Alison resides in her affluent married sister’s house, in an adjoining cottage to their suburban Los Angeles home. Her acerbic domineering sister Debbie (Leslie Mann, Judd Apatow’s wife) seems to have it all, two cute daughters (played by the Apatows real life kiddies), a handsome hubby Pete (Paul Rudd) who makes a good income from his job in the musical industry, but though their marriage seems ideal there are nevertheless several cracks in it. Pete yearns for male companionship in the all-female household and has emotionally withdrawn and Debbie is cranky about life passing her by before she gets too old to enjoy its youthful pleasures. Debbie is also critical of Ben, and spreads pessimism to sis if their relationship could really work.
But Ben, even though uncouth and lacking in ambition, turns out to be an agreeable sort–gentle and friendly–someone who is usually the one who gets hurt in a relationship and not the one dumping on the girl. With that as a positive, they begin to get to know each other and the rest of the film has them navigating a rocky road to find out if they are suited for each other and can find love. For Ben, it’s a no-brainer, because he never dreamed he could get such a beautiful girl and if asked is willing to make a commitment to be more responsible; for Alison, she must struggle to see if she can really love someone who is not her type physically or mentally and who has led such a fruitless life as a lazy pothead.
The film taps into the value of traditional relationships and parental responsibilities, and gets its points across with sweetness and not lecture points. It treats everyone in a gentle way, from the single pregnant woman; the slacker suitor and his slacker friends, who communicate best through a bong and movie scenarios; the burly club doorman who shows his tender side when he tells the rejected Debbie, who is berating him, that he that has no choice but to follow the management’s policies on whom to give special treatment; and the married couple who might have ugly moments together but still are caring parents. For those who think things are getting too mushy, giving in too much to appeal to a conservative audience, the bawdy humor always seems to be around to keep things in check.
REVIEWED ON 6/2/2007 GRADE: B-