Against our better judgment, my wife and I rented Knocked Up last night. She’s been wanting to see it for a while, mainly because it’s similar to one of her favorite movies (Fools Rush In) and she likes the lead actress. Unfortunately, this story of a couple of twenty-somethings who get pregnant on a one-night stand is even more crude than we feared. It’s absolutely filled with explicit language, drug use and nudity, nearly all of which is crass and unnecessary to the plot. I would in no way recommend the film, nor do I have any desire to see it again. In all honesty, we should have just turned it off; it was that bad.
But we didn’t, and in the end, Knocked Up worked surprisingly well as social commentary. Its intended audience is the perpetually adolescent guy who looks for “Unrated” versions and would like nothing better than to spend his days smoking pot with his buddies. Yet that is precisely the kind of lifestyle the film criticizes. The lead character (Ben Stone, played by Seth Rogen) is essentially a 23-year old frat boy (minus the college education), living with four guys who spend all their time smoking and goofing off. None of them have real jobs (who knows how they afford rent, let alone weed) and their only ambition is to create a website detailing their favorite stars’ nude scenes. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that their real dream would be to actually sleep with those celebrities, but the website is their only achievable ambition.
If this is the type of guy the movie is meant to attract, however, it quickly becomes apparent just how empty such a life really is. Ben is a slob, living in a pig-sty with four friends who barely even like each other. Running out of money and wasting the best years of his life, he’s going nowhere and he doesn’t even realize it. When he finally meets the girl of his dreams (Alison Scott, played by Katherine Heigl), he gets so drunk he hardly remembers sleeping with her, and doesn’t realize how much he disgusts her until it’s too late. If she hadn’t gotten pregnant, it’s certain she would never have gone out with him again (she only met him at all because she herself got too drunk while out celebrating a promotion).
And so the movie goes, until it finally allows Ben to hit rock bottom: nearly broke, his life is so meaningless that when an earthquake hits, the only thing he cares to save is his bong (he forgets that his pregnant girlfriend is sleeping in the next room). He doesn’t know what he’s missing until he and Alison’s brother-in-law spend a drugged-out weekend in Vegas. Sitting alone in their hotel room, they suddenly realize what a mess they’ve made of their lives. They have these smart, beautiful women who (completely improbably) love them, and yet they spend most of their time trying to get away from them.
By the time it’s over, Knocked Up is really about these two guys growing up and taking responsibility for their lives, which is a remarkably wholesome message from a movie that is anything but wholesome. I would not recommend this film to anyone (I rather wish I hadn’t watched it myself), but maybe, just maybe, it is the kind of thing that might wake up a few of the overgrown teenagers to whom it’s been marketed. For if there is anything more distressing than the characters in this movie, it’s the fact that there really are guys who live like Ben, and don’t see what’s wrong with it. This film is for them, and I hope it finds its mark.