Relativity: Juno vs Knocked Up

29 May


A few weeks ago I caught Knocked Up and Juno on TV in that order. I had already seen Juno, but rewatching it with that juxtaposition was telling. The two movies have basically the same plot if you distil it down as far as possible. Illicit sex leads to baby which leads to a one night stand turning into a longer relationship, despite the pain and angst of said unplanned baby.

As I was watching Knocked Up, I was constantly aware that, supposedly, people liked this movie. It had done pretty well, and I’d heard many people reference it with approval. I like to like movies, even if only in part and only a little. Usually there is something the movie has to offer, even if it’s only added to my list of movies to MST3K. (Yes, MST3K is a verb now.) So as I looked for things to take from this movie, I wanted to see what other people liked about it. I was actively trying to see its merit.

By the end of the movie, I wasn’t sure I had anything, though I had grasped for things throughout. I wasn’t bothered by the same things my mom was at the time; stoner humor I can get behind in small doses and the cast was good. The relationships early on were very true to life, with all the uncomfortable awkwardness that comes from this brand of comedy-through-harsh realism. But even though the characters seemed real in the beginning, anytime the movie came close to delivering a real emotional pay-off, enter slapstick/physical comedy that derailed it. The characters had very real moments of panic and indecision based on petty things that really do play a bigger role in our lives than they should—potential for dramedy gold. But when the resolutions came, it didn’t come from the characters, it wasn’t even dues ex machina, it just resolved the way writers obviously thought America would want it to resolve. The end. They just get back together and have the baby even though everything that has occurred over the last forty five minutes of movie has suggested that that would suck for both parties. And though people do do things for seemingly no reason demonstrable to others, it makes for bad storytelling, especially when that decision is the climax of the narrative.

Even though some of the climax and denouement left a bad taste in my brain, I may have come away from the film saying something to the ring of “it has its moments.” But then Juno came on. Every minute of Juno made my opinion of Knocked Up drop. By the time Juno throws up blue slushie, I hated Knocked Up, as if the writers had personally insulted and degraded me in creating it. Juno is more offbeat and stylized, but the characters feel hyper realistic even in their weirdness. But more importantly—it has a narrative arc that not only makes sense with the evolution of the characters, but is moving and highly satisfactory (while also managing to avoid excessive sentimentality).

Are there other books/movies that you may have liked a little, except that someone else did it so much better?

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One Response to “Relativity: Juno vs Knocked Up”

  1. Mary Elere May 29, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    Oddly, Wanted and Kung Fu Panda. I wanted to like Wanted. Kung Fu Panda did it better. http://maryelere.wordpress.com/2008/07/17/wanted-vs-kung-fu-panda/

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