Writer-director Judd Apatow takes a tawdry tale and gives it a touch of humanity. For a movie that is this riotously, crudely funny, Knocked Up approaches the life crisis of its title with as much maturity and morality as you could hope for. Most of the movie’s success lies in its casting. Seth Rogen, still cushioned in baby fat and sporting a toddler’s curly mop, plays Ben Stone, an emotionally immature pothead whose unlikely one-night stand with Allison Scott (Katherine Heigl) results in a pregnancy. There is panic, of course, but eventually the two settle into a tentative romance, trying to see if there is any chance that they might be able to raise the baby together. Ben has a great nervous grin – one that comes out whenever responsibility begins to rear its ugly head – as well as a delightful way of realizing he’s saying something really unwise about halfway through but still plowing ahead. Heigl is his equal, anchoring the movie with Allison’s emotional scenes but also more than holding her own during the comic ones.
The scene of a very-pregnant and very impatient Allison imploring the nervous Ben to try different sexual positions rivals the comic, feminist fury of Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm in When Harry Met Sally. Knocked Up, true to Apatow’s generous spirit, spreads the jokes around, from the raunchy camaraderie of Ben’s stoner friends to the wistful observations of Allison’s brother-in-law, Pete, played by Paul Rudd. Ben turns to Pete for advice, but parenting two young girls has only left the older man equally bewildered. “I wish I liked anything as much as my kids like bubbles,” he offers. The work of the Farrelly brothers – and even the raunchy American Pie films – hinted at this sort of crude yet compassionate comedy, yet in Apatow’s pictures that sensibility seems to have fully flowered. He makes the nicest movies to have ever been rated R.