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Growing up: is comically gross but moving; 'Once' tells of two lonely outcasts.

Knocked Up is the early summer comedy hit, a raunchy story about Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl), a pretty and successful young woman who drinks too much one night, shares her bed with an overweight slacker, Ben Stone (Seth Rogen), and immediately becomes pregnant. Plausibility, one quickly understands, is not the film's strength. Alison, just promoted to be a TV interviewer, declares she's going to have the baby--there is no weighing of alternatives--and Ben seizes upon the situation as a reason to grow up.

Directed by Judd Apatow ("The 40-year-old Virgin"), "Knocked Up" is both deliberately offensive and traditionally sentimental. Its biting criticism of Ben's immature friends and Alison's phony employers makes its central relationship warmly human. Besides, as a psychologist friend pointed out, it all turns out to be surprisingly powerful antiabortion propaganda.

Ben is likable and farcical in his readiness to learn how to be a good father. Earlier he had been living with perpetually stoned sidekicks who hoped to create a Web site that would catalog movie scenes with naked actresses. Now he formally proposes to Alison with an empty box, which he promises will one day hold an engagement ring. There are good comic scenes with his father (Harold Ramis), whom he hopes will tell him what to do. The latter is friendly but unhelpful: "I've been divorced three times," he says. "Why are you asking me?

Director Apatow gives us a wildly exaggerated idea--depressing when looked at realistically--of how romance is played out today. Alison is living with her older married sister, Debbie (Leslie Mann), and her emotionally withdrawn husband, Pete (Paul Rudd), who have two delightful little girls and a house with a pool but manage to be deeply unsatisfied. Debbie suspects Pete is starting an affair when he is only seeking escape with male friends at a fantasy baseball draft.

Even if you find much of the film offensively gross, you will be moved by the ending, a realistic childbirth. With Alison's regular baby doctor away for three days at a bar mitzvah in San Francisco, an oriental doctor fills in admirably. And Ben, who may not have known how to put on a condom quickly, shows a real aptitude for fatherhood.

Unlike summer blockbusters such as "Pirates of the Caribbean" aimed at the adolescent market, director John Carney's Once is a small-budget film of charm and originality, a contribution to the ongoing renaissance of film in Ireland. Mixing gritty realism with a romantic story line, it tells the story of two young outcasts struggling to survive in a lonely country and tells it principally in music.

The songs are part of the story, as the musicians rehearse and play for each other in scenes that both move and motivate their lives. Subtitles would have been helpful, however; heavy dialects combined with primitive sound recordings often makes the dialogue hard to follow.

Shot mostly in the poorer quarters of Dublin, the film's characters do not even have real names. Rock singer Glen Hansard is the "Guy," whose longtime girlfriend has just left him and moved to London. While busking on the street at night, he meets a charming young Czech waif (Marketa Irglova), a skilled pianist, and they plan a demo CD in which each will enlarge on the other's performance.

Their relationship seems to be heading toward intimacy, but his past love affair continues to haunt him, while she has a child and a missing husband. The boy/girl story takes a number of turns before offering a more believable alternative ending than one feared.

Mr. Hansard gives a strong performance as the streetwise singer, but it's the newcomer Marketa Irglova who quietly steals the film. Nonglamorous but direct, she seems almost Chaplinesque as she moves with an easy lightness both comical and appealing.

Using hand-held cameras that weave and flow, mostly in low-lit scenes, Mr. Carney gives his film an immediacy found principally in documentaries. He makes fine use of Dublin streets. As the characters change, the camera grows clearer, with Dublin brightening up and the movie ending in one beautifully moving shot.

Posada is an appealing documentary about young Mexican immigrants coming to the United States and searching for shelter. Made by Jesuit Fr. Mark McGregor, professor of film at Fairfield University, it follows three unaccompanied children--Johny, Densi and Wilber--as they search for shelter and acceptance.

The film dramatizes the story of nearly 100,000 young immigrants who are apprehended annually by the U.S. Border Patrol. Fr. McGregor got to know teenagers like the three in his film when he worked as chaplain in a parish in East Los Angeles.

A deeply moving and thoroughly professional work, "Posada" connects the search of these young people to "Las Posadas," the Advent procession that takes place from Dec. 16 until Christmas Eve that recalls Joseph and Mary's search for shelter. During their difficult journey of rejections and sufferings, they are always accompanied by an angel. Amalia Molina, the angel in the movie, was jailed with her husband when they fled El Salvador during the civil war there.

Today director of Ministry to Families of the Incarcerated for the Los Angeles archdiocese, she insisted on first calling attention to the problems of children. Inevitably, the characters in "Posada" speak an accented English, but the basic meaning of its story comes through with power and clarity.

Not yet shown in theaters, it can be ordered for $22 from www.loyolaproductions.com/LPIStore/pasada.php, (310) 498-4281.

[Joseph Cunneen (Scunn24219 a aol.com) and Kevin Doherty (MacGuffin1@optonline. net) review films for NCR.]
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Author:Cunneen, Joseph; Doherty, Kevin
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Movie review
Date:Jul 6, 2007
Words:928
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