So I saw "Knocked Up" on opening night (with a full house that was a very mixed audience of young adults/middle aged/male/female), and I have to add my voice to those commending this film: it delivers.
Not that it was a hard sell for me. I've been a fan of Judd Apatow's back to the Freaks and Geeks/Undeclared days, and recently watched all the extras on the last 40-Year-Old Virgin DVD, which took about four hours.
What's interesting is how he blends the funny and the real, things that too many comedies have gotten away from.
40-Year-old Virgin and Knocked Up both have very loose plots, essentially rough frameworks of stories. In fact, both went into shooting with essentially unfinished scripts: the way Apatow works is to rely heavily -- very heavily -- on improvisation on the set, shooting endless feet of film, getting his actors to come up with funny bit after funny bit, and making sure that he covers it with enough cameras that it will all cut together when they find the movie in the editing room.
He shot a million feet of film on The 40-Year-Old-Virgin. When improv works, it works well.
But what really makes this work is that even though the structures are loose, he makes us like, and care about, the main characters, which really helps tie together all the humorous sequences he strings together. Katherine Heigl is very likable in this film, but its Seth Rogen who really ties it together, tiptoeing the fine line of being an immature loser and being someone who we root for to wind up with Heigl.
Interestingly, last night I also watched the new Special Edition of "Meatballs", a movie I have a certain real fondness for, since I was 16 when it came out.
"Meatballs" was essentially built the same way. Bill Murray (who wasn't even officially hired until the third day of shooting) came in, improv'd a lot of his bits, and inhabited a character who balanced joking immaturity with a real serious side. And it's the serious side that really makes the movie; though there are (barely) enough laughs to hold Meatballs together as a comedy, it is the scenes between Murray and young Chris Makepeace that wind up being the heart of the film, and the reason it works.
Amazingly, most of these scenes were done 3 months after filming wrapped, to beef up up the Murray-Makepeace stuff. The scene in the bus station and all the scenes in Murray's cabin (including the peanut blackjack scene) weren't in the original script, which focused more on the campers and CITs.
Comedies are tricky, and sometimes the best comedies come out of this certain on-the-fly feel, to let actors come up with stuff on set, to realize what is working and what isn't and steer things accordingly. Of course, in the wrong hands, that's also how comedies can completely fall apart as well; I'm sure Eddie Murphy improv'd a lot on "Norbit", and it didn't result in anything classic.
But "Norbit" is a good example of why some premises don't work. If filmmakers don't care about making their characters and situations particularly appealing, it's hard for audiences to care.
I'm losing my train of thought a bit, but it's just nice to see when a comedy really hits on all cylinders, and it'll be interesting to see if Hollywood tries to do more "Knocked Up" type comedies, and how many of them work, and how many don't figure out the characters + laughs formula.