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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Beldar & kids see "Knocked Up"

Yesterday my sons, younger daughter, and I went to see Knocked Up. (Some spoilers follow.)

I suppose it is a noteworthy sign of growing up when one's kids unanimously choose an adult comedy over something like Shrek the Third.

My kids and I all liked this movie, even though — and actually, on closer examination, because — as my son Adam remarked, it was often "really painful to watch."

Katherine HeiglI noted afterwards that no one in the theater had laughed (or otherwise reacted) in response to what I thought was the most remarkable line in the movie, when pregnant Alison (played by Katherine Heigl) is reminded by her own mother of a step-sister who "took care of" an unwanted pregnancy — i.e., had an abortion — but then went on later, "when the time was right," to have "a real baby." "Well, that wasn't very funny, Dad," said my daughter, "that's just kind of sad, that a mother would say that."

Anyway, we agreed that it was a very realistic movie; and that even though it ends on a happy note, it doesn't necessarily have a "happily ever after" ending. In fact, we all agreed that it's a big "if" whether either of the two couples with kids would end up staying together, but that it was at least a very good thing that they were all going to try to. That's what made the ending happy.

I had a very different reaction to the movie than did Katheryn Lopez, reviewing it for the National Review Online:

[A]s delighted as I am for the Knocked Up message that sex has consequences (including unexpected joy and transformative love) and parents have responsibilities, there’s something about Knocked Up that still leaves one a bit disturbed — and a little depressed. It’s pro-life and pro-marriage in its crude way. And it’s important that Hollywood isn’t making pro-life, pro-marriage movies just for more conservative audiences. Maybe I’m getting old, but it seems to me that the Wedding-Crashers-40-Year-Old-Virgin crass-blockbuster fun has been had. While I’m all for redeeming messages (keep the baby, love the child, take some responsibility for your life) reaching us where we’re at, if this is where the culture is — 23-year-olds filling gas masks with marijuana smoke — is it really an excessively laughing matter?

K-Lo, you're missing the point. The movie was intended to leave you a little bit depressed and disturbed. The realism with which this movie treats the slacker/stoner culture of unexpectedly expectant young father Ben Stone (played by Seth Rogen) made it one of the most effective anti-drug movies I've ever seen! In the real world, people who smoke dope or take 'shrooms giggle a lot, and they do silly things that make them laugh, and those things can make audiences watching them laugh too. But in the real world, there are also negative consequences when being constantly stoned becomes the defining characteristic of one's life, and without going all preachy, this movie illustrates those consequences very effectively. A misunderstanding over a condom may make a funny scene too, but hey, the rest of the movie very expressly and repeatedly makes the point that there's a limit to how funny that can turn out to be in real life.

This is precisely the sort of R-rated movie that a parent ought to consider taking one's young teens to, because there are a wealth of issues that parents ought to be the ones discussing with their kids, for which discussion this movie provides a great jumping-off-place. Casual sex after overindulging in alcohol? Marital infidelity? Other barriers besides infidelity to marital intimacy? Too much intimacy as a barrier to a good marriage? Safe sex? Sex during pregnancy? Pregnancy outside of marriage? Compare and contrast male peer bonding at a Las Vegas strip club to female peer bonding at a dance club? This movie is filled with material for mature parent/teen discussions, and while those subjects are presented with humor, they're also presented with grit and an absence of gauzy romance.

So: The movie was entertaining and thought-provoking. There were no Oscar-caliber performances, but the characters were interesting and believable, which is to say, the actors were accomplishing their professional goals.  (A few short character actor showcase scenes are genuinely terrific — especially Ken Jeong as a pissy, prissy ob/gyn, Craig Robinson as a deeply conflicted nightclub doorman/bouncer, and Kristen Wiig as Alison's jealous, cynical, and cocooned co-worker at the E! entertainment network: "This is Hollywood. We don't like liars.") But, overall, in my judgment, this movie was worth the price of the tickets I bought. And whenever you can say that about a movie, that's a good review.

Posted by Beldar at 10:32 AM in Family, Film/TV/Stage | Permalink

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Comments

(1) LazyMF made the following comment | Jun 10, 2007 5:55:25 PM | Permalink

I give it a big thumbs-up also. When I saw it my wife and kids were in the adjacent theater watching Pirates of the Caribean 3. I agree the topics in the movie are good fodder for the discussions you mentioned, but I'm glad my 10 year old wasn't with me. My 15 year old son picked the wrong movie to watch.

(2) parentalunit1 made the following comment | Jun 10, 2007 6:50:05 PM | Permalink

I disagree entirely about this movie. IF this movie was intended to be an anti-drug,take responsibility themed movie, then it came at quite a cost to the women!

Allison gives up her life to live with the cretin Ben because she made a single mistake in a one night stand? Not sure this is the kind of responsibility tale I want my daughter to absord!

Scene by scene I can almost describe the backlash this little "summer sleeper hit" foists upon us cloaked with easy laughs. A list of some of the offenses:

1. The only real reference to a "choice" Allison might have is given by her mother who is portrayed as a hard, immoral socialite, who btw mysteriously disappears until the end of the movie during the credits shown kissing and hugging the new baby. Quite an anti prochoice message. And the mention of the "step sister" seemed only to serve as proof that Allison's mother was immoral...afterall she must have divorced.
2. Allison lands a great promomtion...but oops gets pregnant and then proceeds to hide the pregnancy from her employer like some frightened little girl.
3. Allison lives with her sister? Why? Judd can't have a woman living on her own, even if she makes great money at E?
4. And even after the baby is born and Allison is assured by her employer she has a job...she goes home to Ben's East LA gang ridden apartment? I guess Judd is telling us that a woman has to suck it up and not provide for the family so as not to hurt the guy's tender ego?
5. Every single woman in this film is portrayed poorly. Her sister is a shrew, her mother is a cold immoral woman ( the real children line is meant to seal that for us), and then there is that strange girlfriend found in Ben's living room...what was she a child? No she's mentally handicapped...nice.

Finally there's Allison. A competent, productive and seemingly talented woman who makes a single one night stand mistake...and the moral? She feels the need to live the rest of her life with a complete schlub with the intellectual curiosity of a gnat.

Sorry, this film is a fine example of BACKLASH all wrapped up in easy butt humor laughs. And the list of grievances can go on and on in this movie Judd has served up to promote "family values". What a shame.

(3) Beldar made the following comment | Jun 10, 2007 7:17:55 PM | Permalink

Parentalunit, I think you're projecting your own politics onto the characters of the movie. And they don't measure up.

You write, for example, that "every single woman in this film is portrayed poorly." And the man in the movie who isn't ... ? Every character, man or woman, in this movie is portrayed as being flawed. The girlfriend of the housemate whom you characterize as being "mentally handicapped" was another stoner, just like the male housemates. Those flaws appear to have made you hate the characters, but that's not every viewer's reaction — wasn't mine or my kids, for example.

You also are reading things into the movie that aren't at all there. It's not at all clear, for example, that Alison and Ben will end up staying together for "the rest of her life." They didn't even stay together for the entire movie, and she pointedly turned down his marriage proposal. On the other hand, despite your reaction to his character, her character's reaction — while far from being swept off her feet — included recognition of his positive traits, including ways in which his character changed over the course of the movie.

You assume that Alison was making great money because she had a job with a cable TV network. That's pretty much the opposite assumption I would make; I certainly wouldn't assume that a junior TV producer, even if promoted to an on-camera role, would suddenly be able to afford the traditional middle-class McMansion given L.A. costs of living.

Step-kids, by the way, also can be the product of widowed spouses re-marrying.

Finally, this could have been a movie about the evils of abortion and the righteousness of those who reject that alternative. It isn't — if it were some sort of heavy-handed anti-abortion propaganda, it wouldn't be getting the box-office that it is. It's about a woman who, for reasons personal to her, chose not to have an abortion. (She makes the decision, by the way, without any input from the father.) How can you object to that? Are you pro-abortion rights — or just pro-abortion? Pro-choice or genuinely anti-baby? I hope you're just over-identifying with the Alison character but then projecting your own preferences for how you'd perhaps have chosen to deal with her problems onto her.

(4) kfo made the following comment | Jun 24, 2007 7:48:22 PM | Permalink

My husband and I thought the movie was hilariously well written, and we laughed through the whole thing. But taking your kids to see it? Come on! I don't know how you talk at home, but I would just as soon not sit through that language with my kids by my side. And how about the two main characters trying out the different sexual positions, the X-rated website stuff, the Vegas lap dances, the crotch shot in the hospital, not to mention the constant drug use (which made it seem like a lot of fun, by the way). I'm not a prude in any way, but our kids are exposed to way too much of that kind of stuff these days, without our cooperation! Let them keep what ever little bit of innocence they can hold onto for as long as they can. And hey, what's wrong with a little Shrek?

(5) Beldar made the following comment | Jun 29, 2007 8:53:07 PM | Permalink

kfo, I understand what you're saying. I respect every parent's right to make these value judgments in the manner that seems right to him or her.

My youngest, Molly, was with me for this movie, and she's a very mature 12 year old (even though she looks like she's about 8). I squirmed, but afterwards was glad that I'd taken took her along.

She has an older sister and two older brothers and lives in a house with five internet-connected computers. She attends a public middle school at which there are eighth graders who look like they're 19, and yes, some of them do get "knocked up."

I wish the world were such that I could ensure her innocence, but it's not. But my judgment, and that of my ex-wife's as well (we fortunately are pretty much in tune on this), is that we'd rather hold their hands and talk frankly with them about the real world than try to hold our hands over their eyes and ears and pretend it's different than it really is.

There's nothing wrong with Shrek either, though. Driving my oldest daughter home from her summer classes today, we talked about Shrek and Mike Myers and bad Scottish accents. But earlier this week, on a similar drive, we talked, again, about teen pregnancies and sex, in the context of agreeing that what she'd just heard that day in her public-school health class was pretty incomplete and lame.

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