Hybrids, in their various forms, have been the cause of discussion in a great many fields, from the benefits of energy consumption in cars to the fears about what life forms scientists could create in the lab. One particular hybrid that has been overlooked has taken place in Hollywood, as over the past several years, there has been a crossbreeding of raunchy teen sex romps with romantic date movies.
American Pie was the first time I noticed this as the first half seemed like Porky’s with all its sexual high jinks, but then it became Sleepless in Seattle as the guys went from wanting to get into girls’ pants to wanting to get into their hearts. It’s not clear whether this change is due to a seeping feminization of the culture members of the white male majority decry on right wing radio or a calculated business decision by studios and producers to create films that appeal to both sexes.
Judd Apatow’s directorial debut, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, belongs to this new genre and he returns to it with his latest romantic comedy, Knocked Up. Ben Stone is aptly named because he is a stoner with no job. He hasn’t figured out how to get paid for having a head full of pop culture and pot smoke. Alison Scott works at the E! Channel as an on-air personality interviewing celebrities. They meet at a club, and if allow yourself to believe the fantasy that not only would Alison let Ben chat her up and that no better-looking, more-viable man for dating/sex would approach someone as attractive as she is, the hard part is over.
You don’t have to be Mark Brazill to see that the film covers extremely familiar material without adding anything new to it. It reuses the The Honeymooners template of average-looking chubby guy with delusions of grandeur and a heart of gold having a relationship with a great-looking woman who seems to have everything going for her, except for her choice in men. The relationship observations are unoriginal and weak. Women are moody bitches and men are lazy oafs.
What the film excels at are its brief scenes about Hollywood, which should be no surprise as Apatow worked on one of the best “inside Hollywood” shows, The Larry Sanders Show. The executives at E! and the cameos, especially and unexpectedly Ryan Seacrest hilarious turn, who is usually at the other end of these gags, were the most insightful and funny. I wanted more of that rather than returning to the relationship and its predictable path.
There are some unintentionally funny moments as well during Ben and Alison’s sex scenes because she always has her bra on. The movie draws attention to it indirectly due to Ben and his buddies attempting to create a website filled with information about actresses’ nude scenes. I understand if actress Katherine Heigl has come a long way since Bug Buster and doesn’t want to do nude scenes anymore, but why didn’t Apatow shoot around it? It’s not live show; it’s a film where cameras can be placed and bodies positioned to create illusions. It’s part of what directors do.
Fans of films like The 40 Year-Old Virgin should enjoy Knocked Up. The film has some amusing moments, but no great comic scenes that stand out. Waiting to see it on home video in a few months or even skipping it all together won’t have you missing out on what everyone is talking about.