©2008 Big Empire Industries and Randy Shandis Enterprises
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This week:
Knocked Up

Filthy says:
"Marriage and farts go together like peanut butter and chocolate ."

I was in a wedding party with Judd Apatow sixteen years ago ago. He's the writer and director of Knocked up. We were both groomsmen for a mutual friend and he was just getting ready to launch the Ben Stiller Show for Fox, but they didn't have a name for it yet. At the time, getting to do a prime-time sketch comedy seemed like a monumental achievement to me. Apatow was an asshole, though. He looked and acted like he had dyspepsia and that he wanted badly to be somewhere else, where he could stand around, moaning and looking like he wanted to be in yet another place. I'm not even sure he even bothered to acknowledge our friend's joyous occasion.

I saw him a few times. I'm sure he has absolutely no memory of it, but he always was an asshole to me. He also never looked happy. I knew some pretty fucking funny people, but I never heard him say anything that made me laugh. Well, until I saw him open for Garry Shandling a few years later and he did a bit where he wrote a letter back to the starving Korean child he had adopted through a late-night TV infomercial, complaining about how he had to clean his pool and his parents were so mean and he hoped the kid enjoyed the bag of rice he bought him.

Anyway, I never had a good interaction with the guy. I have no idea if he's cool now, or if he still looks like someone shoved the Pepto-Bismol bottle up his ass. But Boo-fucking-hoo. who gives a rat's ass? He makes quality shit and that's the only thing that matters. Everyone is entitled to be an asshole. One of the biggest misconceptions in our society is that everyone should be nice. Everyone should be whatever the fuck they want and karma can sort it all out. Nice is for the waitress at Denny's, not for some writer who lives 1000 miles from you. The general public has no right to expect celebrities to be nice or charming or witty. All we have a right to demand is that the stuff they sell us is the best they can do. I don't want to know Apatow, don't want to be his friend, but I do want him to make good movies.

So far, he's done that. The guy hasn't made This is Spinal Tap or even a classic, but he has made stuff that has honest-to-god guts and heart and a sincere point of view. That's fucking rare in Hollywood. Probably his masterpiece is the TV show Freaks and Geeks, which was painfully, brutally funny and tonally spot on. The episode where Bill Haverchuck is hospitalized with a severe peanut allergy is among the finest hours of television ever made. The 40-Year-Old Virgin worked because Steve Carrell was a genuinely likable and well-intentioned hero.

With Knocked Up, Apatow has made another small, good movie. A loser (Seth Rogen) who lives with his best friends in a filthy San Fernando Valley house somehow gets lucky with a hot chick (Ketherine Heigl) who went out to celebrate being promoted to being on-air talent at E! Rogen's big dream in life is to launch a web site that documents every celebrity nude scene. he has the social skills of, well, a kid that was never allowed to leave military academy. Yet, he gets lucky and, in the process, knocks up Heigl.

Turns out, despite Rogen being a neanderthal, he's also decent and wants to be beside Heigl throughout the pregnancy. Of course, after the one-night stand, Heigl discovers what an unshaved ape he is, and has a hard time wanting to let him back in. She's decent, too, though, and they try to make it work.

I'm guessing there are a shitload of people out there who lack that one thing in their relationship: the ability to try. It's way easier blaming the other person, and then getting so pissed off that you shut all the doors in your brain that could lead to reconciliation, or even rationally considering who is actually in the wrong, or whether it even matters. Around here, it's easier to storm out, tell your friends a lopsided version of the truth and then believe in the empty condolences than it is to go back home, say sorry and figure out how to make it all right.

Knocked Up is a meditation not so much on pregnancy and childbirth. That stuff is the catalyst for watching adults make adult decisions, and for a meditation on what marriage, love and being together means. It ain't Ingmar Bergman-deep, but Apatow clearly believes what he has to say. Mirroring Heigl and Rogen are Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd, playing Heigl's older sister and brother-in-law. They have one of those shiny, superficial marriages that's like a motel that spreads a clean, smooth sheet over a blood-stained mattress. You'd never notice unless you pulled back the covers. They're afraid to express their needs, and Rudd even has to sneak off to participate in a fantasy baseball draft without telling her. She says that's worse than cheating.

She's right; fantasy baseball is a refuge for the most anal, pathetic men-children you'll ever find. God thing Rudd's not in my league because I'd kick his ass with my deep pitching and sleeper picks. And I could make him feel crummier than his wife ever could with my relentless message-board taunting. Regardless, the point that Apatow and the movie makes is that married people need to have separate lives and some room to be individuals, and also to wonder why the fuck their spouses like them?

Wondering why people like them is a trend I have found in almost every truly funny person I have ever met. Once you start expecting or believing that people like you, you really stop being funny. I spent ten years thinking that any girl whose standards were so low she would date me must not be worth dating. And when I found out a girl did like me, my first question was "What's wrong with her?" After I met Mrs. Filthy, I just made myself stop wondering and questioning. I wake up every morning and think to myself, "Don't rock the boat, don't rock the boat."

Knocked Up's comedy is largely provided by moments of gross-out and pot humor. Rogen's roommates get pink-eye from farting on each other's pillows. Martin Starr bets his roommates he can not shave or cut his hair for a year, and is called the Shoe-bomber relentlessly. It's funny and it relieves the movie from what could be overly sentimental and ponderous shit.

The movie wanders in its middle. Rogen and Rudd go to Vegas, which is almost always a copout. Any time you see a movie where two characters just head to Vegas, it's a lazy filler and a cheap device to make otherwise lame plot points or crucial dialogue feel more sparkly. By the end, as the baby is about to be born and Rogen and Heigl have found a way to love each other, the comedy gets shoved to the back for the sake of wrapping up plot points, showing character growth and flashing a few graphic shots of a baby's head popping out of a vagina.

Unlike most shitty comedies that frontload the gags and then spend too much time trying to resolve the issues of characters they never convinced us to give a damn about, Knocked Up takes the time to give us genuine characters who try hard, are decent and actually mature. Even if the second half isn't as funny as the first, we give a shit what happens. In Holywood movies, that's like a bonus.

It's a fine movie and I like the characters, even if I don't know the guy who created them. Four Fingers.



Mark S. Allen of CBS

Pirate of the Caribbean 3 is "The best Pirates Yet!"

Surf's Up is "One of the most original animated films ever!"

Filthy's Reading
The New Yorker

Listening to
King Kong - Funny Farm


Filth and the Fury