Posted in: Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on February 25th, 2008
Well, since HD DVD has pretty much collapsed now, it only makes sense that we here at Upcomingdiscs clear off what’s left on the mantle, get the cobwebs out, and do our level best to take a look at this lame duck format if you will. I mean, there are movies on them after all, and Knocked Up was arguably a favorite of many in 2007, to the tune of over $150 million and helping to entrench Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen, those who were behind Superbad, as significant contributors to the world of motion picture comedy.
Knocked Up was written and directed by Apatow, who presumably translated his own life experience into this adaptation. Katherine Heigl (Grey’s Anatomy) plays Alison, a recently promoted network personality of the E! television network. To celebrate her promotion, her and her sister Debbie (Apatow’s better half, Leslie Mann of Big Daddy lore) go to a club, and Alison hooks up with Ben (Rogen), who seems to be her polar opposite. He’s unemployed, makes no money, and spends most of his time hanging out and smoking pot with his friends Jonah (Jonah Hill, Superbad), Jason (Jason Segel, How I Met Your Mother), Jay (Jay Baruchel, Million Dollar Baby) and Martin (Martin Starr, Stealing Harvard). So when Ben and Alison hook up, the result is predictable. I mean, look at the title!
So what follows is that Alison has to ponder her career, within the looks-heavy environment of Hollywood, and Ben has to ponder growing up and joining the real world, since his current project is eerily similar to the Mr. Skin website. Ben is the bigger part of the transformation, and Apatow’s experiences are translated into Ben with equal parts of humor and poignancy. Ben’s situation is probably like a lot of guys, where they want to have fun and almost tend to revel in their delinquency. Delinquency is kind of a harsh word, but when it comes to such a life changing event as having or fathering a child, you come to terms with a lot of what you did before, and realize you simply can’t do it anymore. Guess that’s what I’ll be facing at some point down the road.
Performance wise everyone holds their own, and many of them are familiar faces from other Apatow films; Rogen was in 40 Year Old Virgin along with Paul Rudd, who plays Alison’s brother-in-law. The newcomer to the Apatow stock company is Heigl, and she certainly holds her own with all the comics in the crowd who are prone to the occasional improvised line or two, and comes with some her own material as well. Her role and the film’s success signal a breakthrough for her, and the film’s popularity help lend gravitas to the humor that Apatow, Rogen and company enjoy delivering every time possible.
Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround, which is pretty much all you need, considering there’s pretty much nothing but jokes going on here. There’s the occasional scene or two where the subwoofer pokes it’s head out from the frozen sonic ground, and an occasional directional effect or two which is designed to perpetuate immersion, but hardly anything really convincing.
Ha ha jokey movie, which means that you’re getting 1.85:1 widescreen, and since it’s Universal, it’s all VC-1 encoded. The source material is pristine and the foreground looks as sharp and as clear as its going to get. The flesh tones sport a bit of a white push to them a little bit, and the backgrounds lose a bit of sharpness from time to time, but this is a serviceable high definition presentation at best.
In retrospect, when Universal started putting out shabby combo discs which did not port over all the extras from its standard definition counterparts, maybe we all should have realized the writing was on the wall. Before American Gangster came out to critical scathing, this was another recent money making high profile title that was neglected on high def, despite the fact that the extras appear on both sides of this disc. Apatow, Rogen and friend Bill Hader (who appeared in Superbad, but is a friend of the pair and appeared here) join up for a commentary that’s really more fun than informative per se, with Hader contributing impressions of some unique actors when there’s a lull in the action. There’s some joking on cast members that aren’t available for the track, and some funny stories about what’s happened since the film came out theatrically, but like I said earlier, it’s more fun than anything worthwhile. Almost twenty minutes worth of deleted scenes follow, which focus primarily on the interaction between Ben and his friends, but Jonah has a take on Brokeback Mountain that’s funny and worth checking out. The “Line-o-Rama” section is four minutes of alternate takes that show off Mann’s comedic talents, which are worthwhile, followed by six minutes of alternate/extended scenes, one of which is two minutes of Jonah giving Martin and his beard some grief. It’s hilarious and worth the time. A scene with a topless Rogen is next, followed by a video with Loudoun Wainwright, who is one of Alison’s doctors. The gag reel is disappointing, and the “Roller Coaster Doc” examines Jay’s fear of the amusement park ride, and Apatow’s bullying of him to ride one for the film, along with the other cast members vomiting after being on it so many times. “Directing the Director” is a faux piece on Bennett Miller (Capote) and his overseeing of Apatow’s production at Universal’s insistence. It would be a funny piece if it wasn’t so long.
Superbad remains arguably the funniest mainstream comedy of 2007 with a “just right” mix of potty humor and grown-up storylines, buttressed by performances that are entertaining and wholly convincing. The technical merits have a little to be desired, so depending on your flavor, I’d go with the standard definition version. You could always wait for the inevitable Blu-ray version, but that’s neither here nor there.