Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Preggers can't be choosers

DAVID: Hey, Paula.

PAULA: Yeah?

DAVID: I gotta tell you something. I'm really excited about it. Uh, for the first time, today, I woke up, I came to the store, and I... I feel confident to say to you that if you don't take this Michael McDonald DVD -- that you've been playing for two years straight -- off, I'm going to kill everyone in the store and put a bullet in my brain!

PAULA: David, what do you suggest we play?

DAVID: I don't care. Anything! I would rather - I would rather watch Beautician And The Beast. I would rather listen to Fran Drescher for eight hours than have to listen to Michael McDonald. Nothin' against him, but if I hear "Yah Mo B There" one more time, I'm going to Yah Mo Burn this place to the ground.

That interchange between Paul Rudd and Jane Lynch was one of many reasons why The 40-Year-Old Virgin was so much more than the movie that made Steve Carell a star. Judd Apatow's new movie, Knocked Up, is funny and enjoyable but (fairly or unfairly) pales in comparison.

I saw this movie way back in April, before the trailers (one of which bizarrely and unwisely focuses on bit player Jay Baruchel) became ubiquitous. My main complaint from that screening was that the volume was too low, so that I couldn't hear the dialogue over the intermittent laughter. Am I Abraham Simpson now?

One benefit of the trailers is that you know the premise. I think Apatow does a good job presenting the career-focused life of Alison (Katherine Heigl) -- she's a segment producer on E! who's becoming an on-air personality -- with just a slight touch of criticism toward the celebrity news world. (Ryan Seacrest is on hand to hilariously send up his bland host image.) Heigl is very good as the film's anchor; I just can't see Anne Hathaway, who was originally cast, selling this role.

Making less sense is the life of Ben (Seth Rogen) -- though 25, he appears much older than the undeclared freaks and geeks he lives with (Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr, and Jason Segel). Their financial calmness and lack of career urgency could have easily been explained by trust funds, but no satisfying reason is given. His desire to change and become more than just a biological father (the most important development in the movie) would have meant more if we understood where he came from.

Much stronger are the supporting turns by the aforementioned Paul Rudd, who has really embraced his dark side for the sake of comedy, and especially Leslie Mann, aka Mrs. Apatow. After a hilarious bit part in Virgin, she steals the show here as the former hot girl reluctant to become known as a family woman, and a wife suspicious of Rudd's character for all the wrong reasons.

As a final note, I wonder what box office success would mean for Heigl, who has a hit TV show (Grey's Anatomy) that has given her exposure to about 30 million fans but has also wasted her character all season. I know the show is all about Patrick Dempsey and his pretty hair, but she's the one most likely to have the Clooney-esque breakout if we're drawing the ER comparison.


Kamikaze Camel said...

I had to rewind and watch Rudd's reading of the "Yah Mo Be There" line about 10 times when I watched it on DVD for the first time. So funny.

(Knocked Up isn't out here yet, hence I have no comment about it) said...

To my mind everybody have to glance at it.