About the only bad thing about Judd Apatow movies is the advertising.
The trailers for "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" made it look like it was going to be a crime against humanity, then it turned out to be the exact opposite of that. If a bunch of mighty alien overlords showed up and said "Prove mankind does good things or we're going to obliterate you with our moon laser," we could show them that movie and it would save us.
The trailers for "Knocked Up" appeared to be for a movie about the horrors of fat geeks crossbreeding with America's most precious resource: hotbodied blondes. I was led to believe it would involve a lot of screeching and possibly also large quantities of zaniness. In other words, it looked terrible.
Yet again, I was wrong.
The premise in "Knocked Up" premise is way simple. Seth Rogen is an unemployed guy who hangs out with his friends a lot. Katherine Heigl is an assistant for the E! network. When Heigl gets a promotion to on-camera work, she goes out partying, meets Rogen, then takes him home for a one-nighter.
Heigl probably wasn't intending to see Rogen again in the first place, but the sight of his blindingly white ass in the morning doesn't help. She brushes him off and -- two months later -- finds out she's pregnant. She decides to keep the baby and see if she and Rogen can make a relationship work.
This is where a lesser movie would start with the sucking. A movie that isn't as good as "Knocked Up" would get bogged down with the wackiness of an irresponsible young guy adjusting to his impending fatherhood. It'd have things such as Rogen getting caught trying on a male nursing-bra by Heigl's sister, or stupid things to mess up their relationship, like Rogen's buddies throw him a big strip party and Heigl gets upset, only Rogen realizes he doesn't like that stuff anymore and slips out to go meet her in the rain instead, meaning it's all sunshine and teddy bear-flavored ice cream for ever after.
"Knocked Up" isn't like that. Its humor isn't built on zany misunderstandings, it comes from getting a cast that's top-to-bottom hilarious and letting them hang out and make fun of each other. Rogen and Heigl have problems, but they're not artificial movie-land issues that dissolve away with a teary declaration of love. They're real problems, sometimes gross -- things you'd never see in a breezily conventional romantic comedy.
Combined with a few scattered but sharp barbs at the entertainment industry, you almost get the sense Apatow's frustrated with Hollywood and its contrived stories and jokes and "family is so dang neat" take on life. It would explain why his film feels so much more honest.
Mostly, though, the movie is just really, really funny. Somehow the entire cast is hilarious. Even the little kids are funny, and that's impossible. Name one other movie-kid who's been funny. You can't. Because there aren't any.
The laughs would be enough to make the movie great, but Seth Rogen's career with Apatow -- through "Freaks and Geeks," "Undeclared," "40 YOV," and now "Knocked Up" -- is starting to resemble the first meaningful take on the young men of Rogen's generation. They know how these guys live, what they're concerned with, and how they start to grow up. They've got a real circle of life thing going here. I'd bet you $5 we're going to see a singing lion in their next movie. And that it will somehow be damned funny.
"Knocked Up" has some stupid trailers, a leading man who looks like a dude you drink unlabeled tequila with, and a minefield of a concept, but everything about it is good. These guys are on to something here. The only downside to seeing a movie this fun is knowing it'll be a couple years till you get to see their next one.