Reviewer's grade: A-

Writer-director Judd Apatow makes R-rated comedies the way they were meant to be: foul-mouthed, gleefully raunchy and often hilarious. But he performs the nifty trick of making us care about his cretins. As he did in 2005's "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up" is packed with assorted misfits, dorks and losers, but they are treated with affection and, surprisingly, respect.


The movie is outrageous, all right, but there is a refreshing absence of the cruelty that Hollywood typically confuses for irreverence. Seth Rogen gives a star-making turn as Ben Stone, a good-natured slacker who hooks up with beautiful, career-minded E! reporter Alison (Katherine Heigl) for a liquor-sodden one-night stand. Eight weeks later, Alison is battling morning sickness. The insanely mismatched pair agrees to try getting to know one another for the sake of the baby, but it ain't easy.


The story line doesn't get any more complicated than that, but the episodic structure is well-suited for Apatow's howlingly funny blend of the profane and poignant. R


"?Phil Bacharach


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