Since my wife and I are expecting our first child next month, I thought I’d deliver a pair of battlin’ babies into Smackdown Nursery — pregnancy-themed comedies Knocked Up (by writer/director Judd Apatow) and She’s Having a Baby (by writer/director John Hughes). While Apatow has been a proud papa at the box office, spawning an ever-growing family of Knocked Up siblings, Hughes opted to abandon his offspring in a Blockbuster parking lot. The movie’s financial failure drove him into the arms of Macaulay Culkin; Baby was his last real attempt at a comedy for adults.
Knocked Up is the second-best comedy of 2007; the best is Superbad. Like Apatow’s lesser 40 Year Old Virgin, the films have an almost magical capacity to combine raunchy belly laughs with heartfelt emotion without undermining either. In the case of Knocked Up, my wife and I watched it at the theater and recently rented it again on DVD — and we laughed as hard the second time as the first. The coupling of upwardly mobile babe Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) with downwardly mobile slob Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) is about as unlikely as they come. But their experiences have remarkable verisimilitude, as my 11th-grade English teacher would be the first to tell you. From baby books and pregnancy sex to bossy doctors and hormonal outbursts, the film covers every landmine that couples must negotiate (or more often, just plain step on) during those 40 weeks.
The Defending Champion
Despite spitting up at the box office and getting spanked by the critics, She’s Having a Baby is a good movie. It certainly is a must-rent for all couples who are planning to start a family. Hughes tells the semi-autobiographical story of newlyweds Jake and Kristy Briggs (Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern), from their wedding day to the birth of their first child. The focus is primarily on the couple’s indecision about — and then decision to — have a baby, with all its life-changing implications. Again, lots of verisimilitude — my favorite sequence being Jake and Kristy having nonstop (but perfunctory) sex when Kristy is ovulating, to the tune of Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang.” The scare when the baby is born is also a real tearjerker. But we won’t tell you the outcome.
She’s Having a Baby is a different kind of comedy from Knocked Up. It doesn’t deliver round after round of Apatow belly laughs. It’s a glass of wine, not a keg of beer. But it does have something in common with Knocked Up: Because the films are written from a guy’s perspective, they are both able to draw in male viewers without losing the interest of women (you know, they all love babies and crap like that).
Since most people haven’t seen it or even heard of it, She’s Having a Baby is Defending Champion of pregnancy-themed movies in name only — like one of the eight different guys who can claim the heavyweight boxing title because there are eight different sanctioning bodies. The Challenger, on the other hand, has been so successful that it’s elevated its mini-genre and unified the pregancy movie crown. Knocked Up by a knockout.
If you liked this Smackdown, remember that “Knocked Up” has been in the ring before. You may want to check out: