Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) is a television researcher looking at brighter opportunities, while Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) on the other hand is a slowly going nowhere slob who thinks he will be rich with his and his friends' new website idea. The two of them don't know it yet, but they're about to get to acquainted; first, Alison, who lives with the family of her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann), is keen to celebrate a promotion at work that will see her appearing in front of the camera for a change. Second, Ben is going out clubbing with his friends and they meet by chance at the bar when Ben secures Alison a drink. It is to be a fateful night...
After the hit sex comedy The 40 Year Old Virgin put him on the cinematic map, many were keen to see one man humour revolution Judd Apatow's next directorial project, one which he had written himself. However, although it did well, audiences were far more divided over its merits, perhaps because it had been advertised as a comedy but was in fact serious and gravely laugh-free for long stretches. What starts the story rolling is that Alison and Ben have a one night stand, he foolishly misunderstands her in the heat of the moment and she ends up pregnant.
Some saw Alison's decision to keep the baby as a sign this was an anti-abortion movie, but judging by much of the way the plot goes Knocked Up was more of a pro-stupidity movie. Instead of a lighthearted look at what could have been a happy accident, Apatow depicts through Debbie and her husband Pete (Paul Rudd) the living hell of married life that the lead couple have to look forward to. For some reason he cast his real-life wife as Debbie, as this is a deeply unflattering role that sees motherhood turn her from a bright young thing beforehand (we presume) into a paranoid, hostile, hate-filled shrew.
Is this what Alison and Ben have in their future? They are so ill-matched in the first place that Alison might be better considering single parenting, but Apatow still has some faith in the romantic comedy genre. That said, the longer the film goes on the more it makes Cries and Whispers look like Airplane! with its bitter arguments, the tragic failure of either gender to see the other eye to eye, and generally depressing tone. Not that the jokes are much better, with semi-improvised smut passing for humour thanks to Ben's friends - all Apatow regulars and frustratingly all talented performers - and their stoner ways.
The writer-director drew from real life to create his narrative, which only makes this all the more chilling to those who have yet to take the plunge into parenthood: less a celebration of getting together and having kids, more a entertainment form of stern contraception. Debbie, for instance, becomes so insufferable that it's little wonder that her suspicions and harping drive her husband into the arms of, no, not another woman, but his friends and even the pleasure of his own company. You get the impression that Pete and Ben's perceived immaturity was meant to achieve some kind of balance, but it's their side you're on when faced with the torrents of fury from the more responsible women. It's good that the film acknowledges that not every relationship is a bed of roses, but after all the yelling and crying the happy ending seems completely insincere. Music by Loudon Wainwright III (who also appears) and Joe Henry.