When I was a child, I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child;
when I became an adult,
I put an end to childish ways.
1 Corinthians 13:11
Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
I intended to skip this film because of its vulgar title, until I heard the NPR interview with Judd Apatow, the film’s director and writer. Now having seen the film, with all its humor and vulgarity, I feel about it as I did about Kevin Smith’s profanity-filled Dogma—definitely funny and with a warm, insightful heart, but probably not one you will be using with your church group—unless your people are extremely tolerant.
Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl), a rising television interviewer and Ben Stone (Seth Rogen), unemployed and living with several fellow slackers, are polar opposites. They meet at an L.A. nightclub, drink too much, and wake up the next morning in Alison’s cottage, which is located right behind the palatial home in which her older sister and brother-in-law live. Ben uneasily asks if they had sex, and she just as uncomfortably replies that they did. They awkwardly eat breakfast together, and then part neither expecting to see the other again.
Eight weeks later, and Alison calls and meets with Ben to inform him that she is pregnant. “Like, with a baby?” he asks. Although seeming like a train has just hit him, he gamely tells her that he will stand by her, whatever she decides to do. There is plenty of advice concerning this. Older sister Debbie (Leslie Mann), a control freak, brings up the “A” word. So does Ben’s doofus friends, though they cannot bring themselves to say it, using a silly made-up word that rhymes with abortion. Neither parent-to-be seem ever to entertain the idea. And so begins a round of visiting gynecologists so that Alison can find one she is comfortable with; meeting Alison’s sister and brother-in-law and kids; and visits to baby shops, the latter which amusingly show what different worlds they come from. Debbie is with them, and offers to buy the expensive crib for them as a baby shower gift. The penniless Ben is wide-eyed at the $1400 price tag, and says he could pick up an abandoned one in the street or second-hand and thus save a lot of money.
There is a lot of slacker humor, such as the goal of Ben and his roommates to develop their own movie website called fleshofthestars.com devoted to giving the exact time when the stars first take off their clothes in nude scenes. They are such slackers that not one of them thought of checking out the internet to see if someone else already had the idea. When they stumble across just such a one, it is a revelation to them comparable to the apostle Paul’s trip to Damascus. Also funny is Ben’s revealing to Debbie that he is a Canadian illegally living in this country on the proceeds of an accident settlement he received when a mail truck ran over his foot.
The lead actors are so good that they totally convince us that two such different characters might come to like each other, and then even fall in love. Ben’s progress from irresponsible drifter to dedicated father is especially well shown. Though his film is filled with profanity, writer/director Judd Apatow’s family values are very traditional, this being not only one of the best character transformation films that I have seen, but also one that strongly affirms the importance of family relationships. His view of the significance of a husband-wife family is similar to what is taught in Focus on the Family—though the latter would not approve of his scatology or irreverent humor. I wonder—maybe that is why Apatow injects both into his scripts, to make sure that no one could ever confuse him with the self-righteous bunch that most people associate with family values.
1) What do you think of the mixture of traditional family values and crude humor in Judd Apatow’s films? Does it seem to bother the others in his audience, who are (young adults?) How might this be a generational matter—for instance, compare his films with those of Kevin Smith. How is Dogma both a very religious film and a very profane one?
2) How do both Alison and Ben show that they are capable of great growth? How important do you think this is in a relationship, especially a long term one like marriage?
3) What do you think of sister Debbie’s philosophy of husband rearing? How does this almost result in disaster? How do her and Pete’s (Paul Rudd) children at times seem more mature than the adults?
4) Why do you think that Pete has such difficult accepting Debbie’s love? How could this easily have been Ben’s problem? How widespread do you think is the feeling of not being worthy of being loved? How is it important that we see that love includes grace? At what points do you see grace in this film? Even at Alison’s workplace?
5) Note how even bit characters are depicted as well-rounded characters in this film, such as the black doorkeeper’s response to Debbie when she goes ballistic over not being allowed to enter the nightclub. Why were the two good-looking women excluded, and who else are, according to the doorman? What does the club’s policy reveal about the nature of our society (and of most movies)?
6) What do you think of Pete’s observation that “marriage is like ‘Everybody Loves Raymond,’ except that it’s not funny” ?
7) What do you think of the scene in which Ben tells Alison “I don’t want to force you,” and she says to him that “You’re great. You’re great the way you are…” ? Remind you of Fred Rogers old song of grace, “I Like You Just the Way You Are” ?
8) Compare the birth scene to that in other films? How does the quick shot of the baby “crowning” add to the realism (as well as the shots of the baby developing in Alison’s womb during her visits to the doctor during the previous months)?) How does Ben’s dealing with the insensitive doctor show that he is well on the road to maturity?