Two years ago writer/director Judd Apatow delivered a surprise hit with “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”
Now comes his follow-up “Knocked Up,” which I'm happy to report only confirms what “Virgin” first suggested - Apatow is a very talented man.
Like “Virgin,” the premise of “Knocked Up” is simple. Ben (Seth Rogan) is a mid-20s fun-loving stoner slacker who meets Alison (Katherine Heigl), a career minded young woman, one night in a bar. The unlikely couple have a one night stand that goes nowhere.
But eight weeks later, Alison discovers she's pregnant, forcing Ben and Alison to both reexamine their lives and potential relationship.
“Knocked Up” works thanks in large part to a strong cast and Apatow's ability to stretch a seemingly razor-thin premise into a well-developed (OK, maybe too developed) final product.
Rogan, one of Steve Carrell's friends in “Virgin,” continues to establish himself as a delightful comedic actor, but also shows a soft side that helps make the romance a little more believable.
Heigl helps make the premise more believable too, with a solid performance as the film's voice of reason. She doesn't really get many comedic moments in “Knocked Up,” but she proves more than capable of holding her own with the rest of the cast.
The supporting cast is outstanding as well, especially Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd as Alison's sister and her husband, who are constantly at each other's throats.
Apatow's screenplay is sharp, with plenty of wit and funny banter. But that also proves to be the one major problem with “Knocked Up.”
The film is well over two hours long and there is a stretch - especially in the middle third - where the film includes random scenes that almost feel like they should have been the deleted outtakes available on DVD. But that's easy to overlook because honestly, most of the time those scenes are very funny.
If Apatow could have found a way to trim the material just a bit, “Knocked Up” could have been a great comedy. As it stands, it's still very good - good enough to increase the Apatow fan base that was already pretty large after “Virgin.”
‘Pirates' goes out in style
Also in theaters this week is “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End” (B-), a satisfying conclusion to the enormously successful Disney trilogy that falls somewhere between the likable No. 2 and the somewhat overrated original.
This third installment begins with Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), Will (Orlando Bloom) and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) setting sail to the end of the world in hopes of rescuing Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from the afterlife after his demise in “Dead Man's Chest.”
Once Jack is brought back (during a really neat rescue sequence), the four set out to gather the pirate lords from around the world, in hopes of making a final stand against Davey Jones (Bill Nighy) and Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander).
This is certainly the most ambitious film in the “Pirates” franchise, with a large cast, more exotic locations and several impressive effects-heavy action sequences.
For the most part the effort is rewarded, with a film that manages to deliver most of the time (even if nothing quite lives up to the waterwheel fight in “Dead Man's Chest”).
Fans of Sparrow will again enjoy Depp's loopy performance and adding Keith Richards as Sparrow's dad is an added bonus.
“At World's End” is nearly three hours long, so it does feel a little padded, but for the most part the film moves at a reasonable pace - even if it almost stumbles to the finish while trying to tie up all the loose ends.
There is a hint to a possible fourth film and while I wasn't a fan of the original, I'll admit this franchise is starting to grow on me.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action/adventure violence and some frightening images and is playing at the Great Escape 12 and Glasgow's Highland Cinemas.