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Patt Morrison Headshot

Knocked Up or Knocked Down?

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Can you blame me for thinking we've spun into a retro time warp? With politics and the country going the way they are, and now this movie, which, except for the raunchy language and images, could have been some Doris Day/Rock Hudson cotton-candy '50s sex comedy -- or some stern Victorian cautionary tale?

Movies and TV and theatre couldn't do without dopey characters, but from what I've read of Knocked Up, there's a crowded race to the IQ bottom. She is a smart, ambitious, kind, beautiful reporter. He is a flabby, do-nothing slacker stoner. She stays too late at a drunken do and, in a one-night stand, gets pregnant [or, as the disapproving 1950s language would have it, "gets HERSELF pregnant," immaculately, as though no other agent were responsible]. Okay, no birth control, no protection -- we get that.

But no morning-after pill, legal and available for just this kind of situation? And, when the pregnancy test comes back positive, no swift, early, legal abortion? Not even seeing it through to adoption?

It's not as if these two are already in love -- they could barely pass the six-degrees-of-separation test. And yet the plot device sends them implacably to the altar. Otherwise there'd be no movie, but there might be two independent and maybe even fulfilled lives.

Instead we get a combination of the stock notion of a shotgun wedding all mixed up with the ultimate bad-marital-counseling idea -- that having a baby will keep a couple together. Ask the experts: what usually happens instead is resentment, triangulated blame, even potential spousal and child abuse. Those are some swell family values. Pity the baby.

For 20 years, some schools have offered programs to teach teenaged girls and boys, with relentless reality, the unending demands of parenthood. The teachers in these programs would probably be the first to worry that it can all come undone with one romantic pop song, one pink-clouds-and-baby-booties hit movie.

There are a lot of messages to take away from Knocked Up: one, that all it takes to get a woman to climb down off the pedestal where she maybe didn't belong in the first place and become a real woman is a baby. And two, in another iteration of the male fantasy that even slacker-stoners can get fab women, that all you need to get the girl you could never have landed otherwise is too many tequila shooters and a chance at the lucky-sperm lottery. If the filmmakers were honest, they would have thrown in some post-credits bonus scenes, ten years down the road, of the alternative outcomes, the likeliest among them, the star, Katherine Heigl, struggling to bring home a paycheck and raise two children -- her baby, and her husband -- and hitting the "replay" button on the Peggy Lee song, "Is That All There Is?"