Did I Do That?

From virginity to pregnancy, Apatow moves fast

Movie Guru

by LaRue Cook

She don't care what her mama said, no/She's gonna have my baby/I'm taking all I have to take/This takings gonna shape me

Seeing as how I couldn't get Kings of Leon's â“Knocked Upâ” out of my head for the rest of the day after I saw Judd Apatow's latest film of the same name, I figured it appropriate to begin with the lyrics.

Unlike most critics, I myself was not an avid fan of Apatow's 2005 sleeper hit comedy The 40 Year Old Virgin . Granted it was an innovative script that put a new spin on the trials and tribulations of â“your first time,â” but the film just didn't seem to have the same unabashed originality as, say, David Dobkin's Wedding Crashers , which rivaled Virgin at the box office that summer.

And I mention this because for all the reasons 40 Year Old Virgin earned nothing more than a stale laugh from me, Apatow's recent release, Knocked Up , will probably turn out to be my (excuse the tired phrase) â“best comedy of the summer.â”

Maybe my change of heart stems from the level of immediacy that connects us to Apatow's unlikely putz of a hero, Ben Stone. There might be a 40-year-old virgin out there somewhere, but any barhopping male or female can relate to Ben and Alison's dilemma. As Ben so eloquently, or maybe awkwardly, forewarns Alison's friends after he knocks her up: â“Don't drink and bone.â”

Being a 22-year-old guy who just graduated college, I can relate to the fears of an unplanned pregnancy, the mind-numbing thought of what life-altering changes a child could bring. And Apatow lends believable credence to this awkward exchange between two people who never really meant to have a second date.

As most beer-guzzling males tend to joke, Ben (played by Apatow's Freaks and Geeks buddy Seth Rogen) outkicks his coverage when he lands Alison (Katherine Heigel of Grey's Anatomy fame). He's a round-faced, round-bellied Jewish-Canadian guy that doesn't really have a job and sits around smoking pot and taking part in American Gladiator events with his buddies by the pool. She's a statuesque blond who's focused solely on her up-and-coming career as a television personality for the entertainment network, E!.

The two probably would never have crossed paths if not for alcohol. After Alison gets the on-air promotion at E!, she and her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) splurge for a night on the town where she has a chance encounter with Ben. One shot leads to another and, well, you fill in the rest.

The plot is one that has potential to bog down with tired cliches and age-old adages. It's freshened, though, by Apatow's unique blend of situational comedy, which is at once sidesplitting humor and bittersweet laughter. He has a knack for coming at an issue from all angles, showing us the lighter, baby-book side of pregnancy and the real seriousness of bringing new life into the world.

Thankfully, he doesn't opt for stock answers, and although his ending is a bit too easy, he avoids several instances that could've spiraled deep into melodrama.

When Debbie's husband Pete (Paul Rudd) and Ben have a climactic epiphany about their lives and what it means to leave behind male bonding, Apatow has it all go down in a Vegas hotel room while they're tripping on shrooms. Pete's jumping from chair to chair trying to find the right â“energyâ” all the while Ben philosophizes through tears. It's outlandish comedy, but there's still that palpable air of breakthrough underneath the oddity of it all, which is something you don't often get from sappy monologues.

Apatow is part of a recently formed contingent of comedic directors who work in earnest to conjure an eerie feeling of familiarity with what's happening on screen. You leave the theater saying, â“That's exactly what I was thinking.â” There are moments in Dobkin's Wedding Crashers , Peyton Reed's The Break-Up , and Knocked Up when you feel as though they've transplanted your life into their story.

And if you don't find solace with the main character, then there's always someone on the periphery to latch onto. Like any good tragedy, Apatow's Greek Chorus gives poignant, and sometimes pointless, insights. He enlists more of his Freaks and Geeks club in the form of the self-appointed leader Jason (Segel), the nerds Jonah (Hill) and Jay (Baruchel) and the wanna-be-Bohemian Martin (Starr). It's their mold that Ben has to break out of. No more ninja weapons, no more weed and no more farting on one another's pillows because, as we learn, you can get pink eye.

The point being that like getting knocked up, life is not planned. You take all you can take and, as the aforementioned song goes, it shapes you into a new form. Whether it's a perfect or imperfect one is really up to you.

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Puberty's Awesome

Before Dr. Izzie Stevens became the resident hottie on the hit TV show Grey's Anatomy , actress Katherine Heigl played significantly less-hot characters. She had a recurring role on the sci-fi TV series Roswell , and prior to that, she played a bit part on one episode of Law and Order . But deeper in the cavernous archives of Truly Obscure Acting Roles, you'll find the 1994 comedy My Father the Hero .  

This may be hard to believe, but Heigl's curvaceous pin-up body wasn't always that way. In her teenage years, she evoked more of an â“innocent younger sisterâ” reaction from onlookers. Oh, she's always been a pretty girl, but a girl she wasâ"like a lanky ballerina who discovers she's too tall for a partner.

Perhaps that's why director Steve Miner (whose personal filmography is firmly planted in the cult-horror realm, à la and Lake Placid ) cast a young Heigl as Nicole, the lead role in this predictably heart-warming movie about a teenager coming of age, struggling to define herself as a woman.

Also starring is Gérard Depardieu as André, the father of â“Nee-cul.â” Yes, Depardieu plays a Frenchman, divorced from an American wife, with whom he has a rebellious American-sounding daughter.

André takes Nicole on a summer vacation to a tropical island. Nicole meets an older boy, and in an effort to appear womanlier, she tells said-boy that her older male companion is not her father, but her lover. Word gets around the island just in time for daddy to play a creepy rendition of â“Thank Heaven for Little Girlsâ” on the piano at a crowded resort bar.

You might presume that it all works out in the end (Check.), but what you might not guess is that My Father the Hero is, in fact, a remake of the 1991 French film Mon pÃre, ce héros , also starring Depardieu.

Seriously. We couldn't make this stuff up.

After the American release, Depardieu went on to remake the film once more, this time in Spanish. Kidding! He's done a slew of French films and TV mini-series, as well as a spattering of work in English.

And Heiglâ you know where she isâ"stashed away in your fantasy file.

â" Leah E. Willis



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