Hollywood cinema has seen more than its fair share of pathetic losers who, through the charity and guidance of beautiful, worldly women, learn to mature and accept life's responsibilities. It's a shopworn theme, but it can be spun into comedic gold in the right hands. Whether it's sad sack Benjamin being seduced by Mrs. Robinson in 'The Graduate' (1967), Dudley Moore finding the perfect '10' (1979) in Bo Derek, or Tom Cruise seducing prostitute Rebecca De Mornay with a flick of his Ray-Bans in 'Risky Business' (1983), when all of the right elements are in place, audiences can't help but be charmed by the disreputable louse redeemed by the love of a good broad.
Now, the 21st century gets its own blockbuster take on the same formula with Judd Apatow's winning sleeper 'Knocked Up.' Katherine Heigl (TV's 'Gray's Anatomy') stars as Alison. She seems to have everything -- looks, brains, a great up-and-coming gig at E!, and the support of her loving sister Debbie (Leslie Mann, also Apatow's real-life spouse) and brother-in-law Pete (Paul Rudd). But Alison is single (which, in a romantic comedy, is the equivalent of having cancer), so when a drunk night out leads her into the arms of chubby, sad-sack loser Ben Stone (Seth Rogen), she goes for the quickie and wakes up... pregnant.
In a turn of events that seem to happen only in Hollywood movies, Alison decides to keep her baby and to give Ben a chance to become the ideal daddy to their child. Of course, Ben's "day job" of spearheading an Internet porn site with his beer-guzzling cronies doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Likewise, the disapproving glances of Alison's friends offer little solace, while Debbie's deteriorating relationship with Pete is hardly a model for wedded bliss. Ultimately, Alison delivers an ultimatum to Ben -- shape up or ship out. Will he rise to the challenge and do her proud?
'Knocked Up' is a perceptive comedy that far exceeds its sitcom premise. As he showed so well with '40 Year-Old-Virgin,' and recent producing efforts like 'Superbad' (also starring and co-written by Rogen), Apatow builds his stories around three-dimensional characters that are developed strongly enough so we recognize them as real people, then puts them through such a wringer that universal comedy bursts forth like a fountain of inspiration. Apatow has a knack for refreshing cliches and tropes with his seemingly off-the-cuff, staccato dialogue and terrific casting. 'Knocked Up' crackles with energy, intelligence, and wit in every scene.
For all of its charms, however, there has been some concentrated criticism leveled at 'Knocked Up,’ with some viewers arguing that the film's female characters -- particularly Alison -- are presented simply as male fantasies. Though Heigl is endlessly charming and is arguably the glue that holds the movie together, the complaint is a valid one. Apatow paints his male characters with far more nuance than he does his female characters, and the movie's many detours into male anxiety arguably come at the expense of focusing on Alison’s dilemma -- after all, she is the one undergoing the most dramatic changes. Indeed, the premise itself -- that a woman as alluring, successful, and together as her would not only sleep with a schlub like Ben but think of reforming him into a model father -- smacks of frat boy wish-fulfillment. Tellingly, the word "abortion" is rarely uttered (otherwise, Apatow wouldn't have a movie).
Yet, even if you can't totally swallow Apatow's male-centric view of maternal crises, 'Knocked Up' is simply too damn funny not to embrace. The jokes do teeter on the edge of sheer vulgarity (further exacerbated by the "Uncut and Unprotected" version with four minutes of added racy material), but still Apatow always manages to keep the movie from veering into the grotesque. These days, it's rare to find genuinely hilarious comedies like 'Knocked Up' that are about people and ideas. I didn't buy all of Apatow's sentiments, but there's no doubt he's a major new talent, and that 'Knocked Up' is one of the year's brightest, most engaging movies.
’Knocked Up' features the film's unrated 133-minute cut, spread across a BD-50 dual-layer disc and presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video (1.85:1). This is a re-encode of the same master used for the previous HD DVD, and there is no quantifiable difference between the two. This transfer looks pretty good, but has enough flaws that I remain somewhat disappointed. This is not one of Universal's top-tier next-gen new releases. (Note: Though it is not that prominent on the menu, you can select between the Extended and Theatrical Cuts of the film, both at start-up and with live toggle during playback.)
Topping the list of the pros is a sparkling fresh print. Befitting a new release, there is not a single speck or blemish to be found. Blacks are pitch perfect, and while contrast is a bit on the hot side, the transfer isn't too intense. On the not-so-bright side, color reproduction is a bit skewed. It's rare that I see a transfer with too much yellow, but that's the case here -- fleshtones look sickly, and the entire presentation just looks just a bit left of center. Add the yellow cast to the slightly hot contrast, and highlights flatten out, lessening detail and depth.
Not problematic is shadow delineation, which is above average with fine detail visible throughout. Sharpness is also excellent, and edge enhancement is not an issue. Noise isn't an irritant, and I didn't notice any artifacts. I still wish that 'Knocked Up' looked like a million bucks, but it remains a solid triple.
Considering it's a romantic comedy, 'Knocked Up' sports pretty spiffy sound design. It is presented on this Blu-ray with the benefit of high-res audio, with Universal giving us a DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/24-bit) versus the Dolby Digital-Plus of the HD DVD. The DTS-MA track is immediately louder and brighter right out of the gate, but after volume matching, there isno't much in the way of a substantial upgrade offered.
'Knocked Up' makes nice use of music -- both score and rock/pop tunes -- which fill up the rears nicely. It's this soundtrack's best asset. Some lively discrete effects also pop up during busy scenes (mostly the repeat excursions to a local nightclub). There is enough dynamic action that the improved dexterity of the rears on the DTS-MA track is evident, though again, it's hardly massive.
Tech specs remain strong. Dialogue is smooth and well-balanced. Frequency response extends cleanly across the entire range, and low bass packs more than enough punch for the material. I was also impressed with the sense of separation across the fronts, which is particularly noticeable with the music. All things considered, 'Knocked Up' is an above-average presentation for a romantic comedy, and this DTS-MA upgrade is probably the best the film will likely sound.
Last year's HD DVD release of 'Knocked Up' was not the ultimate next-gen experience, namely because Universal dropped some of the extras found on the two-disc DVD release, including a few featurettes, a pair of gag reels and a Katherine Heigl audition tape. For this Blu-ray version, the studio has righted its past wrong, and all of the original DVD material is included. Video is presented in 480p/i/MPEG-2 only, with optional English and Spanish subtitles.
'Knocked Up' was the sleeper smash of 2007, and it is easy to see why. A smart, perceptive, and very funny human comedy, it earns every laugh with genuine pathos and heart. This Blu-ray easily matches (and exceeds) the previous HD DVD release. The video is on par, but the audio has been upgraded to DTS-MA and there are even more extras than before. 'Knocked Up' is a no-brainer on Blu-ray.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.