One of the world’s most popular screenwriting books, Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat has brought clarity and a sense of direction to thousands of screenwriters, many of whom were looking for the logical extension of Syd Field’s work.
If you’re not familiar with it, the book delivered a structural screenwriting roadmap: not quite a full-blown join-the-dots guidebook, but in some ways, close.
With fully 15 story beats to hit over 90-120 pages Save the Cat gave writers both a well-lit pathway through those dark narrative woods and a way to quickly filter out the stories worth developing to full screenplay stage.
But how well do the theories hold up?
In Blake’s 2nd book, Save the Cat Goes to The Movies, he attempted to firm up and solidify his thesis, by analyzing various classic films.
And whilst this analysis proved for the most part effective, the doubters (largely, let’s face it, from the independent-slash-art-house sector of the industry) remain…
So whilst Snyder’s greatest gift to screenwriters probably remains the pithy maxim “give me the same, just different”, here at Industrial Scripts we thought we’d really stress-test the theories, against a range of films of varying quality.
“The pithy ‘give me the same just different’ remains Snyder’s greatest gift to screenwriters…”
If you’d like to view all the articles in our Save the Cat Analysis Series please do so at the link, and simply read on for the next instalment in the series!
Save the Cat Analysis Series #5: KNOCKED UP (2007)
FILM: KNOCKED UP (2007)
STORY TYPE: “Fool Triumphant” / “Rites of Passage”
NOTES: A much-lauded comedy, KNOCKED UP manages to avoid slipping into saccharine territory, while still persuading an audience to invest in its characters and its relationships, which is no mean feat. Ultimately the themes are the same as so many US comedies: male camaraderie, male fear of responsibility and growing up, and women’s responses to these ideas. As far as Snyder goes, this is for the most part his type of movie: clear Catalyst, and act break moments combine with a strong-ish Bad Guys Close In sequence, and a similarly successful Dark Night of the Soul section. The B Story is less than convincing – seemingly as ever – and the Debate and Theme Stated moments aren’t in keeping with Snyder’s views too, but overall this manages to conform to the paradigm while still managing to feel original and organic. Which probably explains its huge success, ultimately.
Save the Cat Analysis: KNOCKED UP
- Opening Image (p. 1)
KNOCKED UP Opening image: a ramshackle Californian bungalow, with some beaten-up old vehicles outside. Whilst it’s arguable that the generic, “off into the sunset” finale contrasts somewhat with this down ‘n’ dirty opening, it’s not that convincing as opposites go. The boys’ play-fighting during the opening sequence certainly sets the tone for the movie, however.
- Theme Stated (p. 5)
– Like many Apatow movies, there’s no significant Theme Stated moment early on here, although the themes of the story do creep to the surface later on, most notably when Alison and Debbie discuss the nature of relationships. “I thought you were just meant to accept people for who they are and love them anyway”, says Alison, whereas Debbie’s view is: “you criticise them a lot so they get down on themselves and are forced to change…and in the end, they thank you for it”. Wish is true? In the end, the film seems to argue that both are, as Alison learns to accept Ben for who he is, and Pete appears to reign in his excesses (fantasy baseball league etc.) to please Debbie. The lack of a clear Theme Stated moment early on, however, means that the film fails to match the Snyder paradigm, at least in this respect.
- Set-Up (p. 1 – 10)
– All the significant characters are introduced, and the Apatow is particularly keen to draw the distinction between the raucous, frat-boy chaos of Ben’s world and the adult, professional world inhabited by Alison, Debbie and Pete. “There is a sense in the Set-Up”, writes Snyder, “that a storm’s about to hit”, and what with Alison getting her promotion and going out to celebrate, and Ben appearing the same club, there’s certainly a strong sense of that…
- Catalyst (p. 12)
– 15 minutes in and Ben and Alison, having met in the club, go back to her place and have unprotected sex. A truly Snyderian Catalyst moment: big, story-changing and distinct.
- Debate (p. 12 – 25)
– What will happen after the one night stand? Will Alison reject Ben? Will they see each other again? How will they both react when they learn she’s pregnant? Of course, there isn’t really an out-and-out Debate going on here because neither of them know yet that Alison’s pregnant, but we do, and there’s a very strong sense of “what’s going to happen next?” here, which does feel Snyderian. Still, the Debate section remains one of Snyder’s least supported story sections by the films we’ve encountered.
- Break into Act Two (p. 25)
– Precisely 25 minutes in and Alison learns that she’s pregnant. It’s not strictly speaking a pro-active decision on the part of the protagonist, as Snyder would prefer, but in all other ways this is about as clear a Break Into Act Two beat as one could hope for.
- B Story (p. 30)
– Alison and Ben go out for dinner, and as this is their first really sober conversation, you could describe this as the start of the love story. However on the flip side there isn’t any significant mention of the theme of the movie here, and nor are there any new characters to provide Snyder’s beloved “booster rocket” effect. Overall then, this is another B Story which fails to build up any significant momentum, and overall this story beat remains one of Snyder’s least convincing.
- Fun and Games (p. 30 – 55)
– The promise of the premise time. Looking at the poster for this movie, it’s obvious that at its core this is a fish out of water tale, about a man floundering around in an area of life he’s nowhere near equipped for. We’ve come to see a slacker saddled with huge responsibilities, and we want to laugh while we see how he responds to these responsibilities. “I think that’s it’s awesome that you’re going to be a father, man”, Jay tells Seth, “think of it like this – it’s just an excuse to play with all your old toys again”. But the early stages of this sequence actually feel like a Debate section, as Ben and Alison try to decide what to do. Jonah tells Ben he should get an abortion, Alison’s mother tells her the same thing. So this early sequence isn’t exactly full of Snyder’s spirit of “Fun and Games”, but it picks up soon afterwards, as we see Alison meeting all Ben’s crazy friends and then there’s a montage sequence of the protagonist truly out of his element: meeting gynaecologists. So overall, this sequence certainly contains moments of Snyderian value, but it’s not the most convincing Fun and Games section we’ve encountered.
- Midpoint (p. 55)
– 68 minutes in, and Ben and Alison encounter problems in the bedroom. This is about as close as we get to a distinct Midpoint section here, and this is a clear “down” moment, as the problems in the bedroom and the subsequent earthquake (during which Alison seems to realise for the first time that Ben is pretty awful father material), signal the start of the Bad Guys Closing In section…
- Bad Guys Close In (p. 55 -75)
– As above. Alison: a) shuns sex with Ben due to his hang-ups about what position they do it in; b) realises he isn’t beside her during the earthquake, and is instead smoking a bong; c) learns that he hasn’t been reading the baby books he said he would; and d) is essentially a man-child, with his samurai swords and other “toys” lying around his bedroom. The Bad Guys also close in elsewhere: Debbie is convinced Pete is cheating on her, and ropes in Alison and Ben to investigate. This indirectly results in an argument between Alison and Ben, who share different opinions on the Debbie/Pete troubles.
- All is Lost (p. 75)
– 80 minutes in, and Alison and Ben have a blazing row at the gynaecologist’s, and Ben storms out. It looks over for them. This lacks Snyder’s favoured “whiff of death” moment, and it’s also arguable that the break-up isn’t definitive enough here, to merit the All is Lost tag. But it’s as good as we’re going to get in this particular section of the film.
- Dark Night of The Soul (p. 75 – 85)
– This is actually a very upbeat sequence to begin with, as both Debbie and Alison and Ben and Pete set out to let rip within the confines of their own respective genders. However things turn sour quickly: Debbie and Alison can’t jump the line at their favourite nightclub for being “old and pregnant”; and Ben and Pete take mushrooms and their elation swiftly turns to paranoia and self-doubt. Both Debbie and Pete worry individually about their futures, and it’s interesting to note that their relationship is never really resolved in the film – we’re not sure whether they’re going to end up with each other or not. There is certainly an element of that “oh Lord, why hast thou forsaken me?” feeling that Snyder champions here, with Debbie and Alison slumped on the curb of the street, and everyone being emotional. The sequence then gets darker as Alison rejects Ben, but overall a comedy like KNOCKED UP is never likely to match the Snyder paradigm very well in these “darker” areas of the story.
- Break into Act Three (p. 85)
– Clear act break here as Alison is alone, with the baby on its way, and Ben has the chance to play the hero and save her, which he does, even displaying how he’s changed in the process (having read the baby books). A very Snyderian moment.
- Finale (p. 85 – 110)
– A very Snyderian Finale as all’s well that end’s well, with Ben calming the situation between Alison and the deranged doctor, and Alison giving birth to a healthy baby girl. The Finale is where “the lessons learned are applied” says Snyder, and this does feel apt for this sequence, with Ben proving a calming influence throughout, and winning the girl as a result.
- Final Image (p. 110)
– As suggested, not an opposite to the opening image, but as Ben insists on driving slowly and sensibly for the baby’s sake we’re given further evidence of how he’s changed and matured over the course of the film.
Scene-by-Scene Breakdown: KNOCKED UP (2007)
- KNOCKED UP’s Opening image: a ramshackle Californian bungalow, with some beaten-up old vehicles outside.
- We see BEN (Seth Rogen) and his housemates and friends messing around, just having lots of fun.
- Cut to ALISON (Katherine Heigel) waking up in bed at 7am.
- Cut again to DEBBIE (Leslie Mann) and PETER (Paul Rudd) being awoken in bed by their young kids SADIE (Maude Apatow) and CHARLOTTE (Iris Apatow).
- Alison comes round to Debbie and Peter’s house. Peter explains that he can’t take the kids that day, because he’s got an appointment with a personal trainer at the gym. They argue about who’ll take the kids to school, when Alison offers to take them instead.
- Alison drives the kids to school, and the kids bicker in the back seat.
- Cut to Ben’s house, where JASON (Jason) and MARTIN (Martin Starr) are making a bet. Jason says that if Martin doesn’t cut his hair or shave for a whole year then he will pay his rent. However if Martin breaks the bet then he has to pay all 5 of their rents. The boys then discussing their planned website, which promises to list in what movies famous actresses take their clothes off.
- Cut to Alison at work, behind the scenes at the E! News Channel. Alison discusses JESSICA SIMPSON, due to be the next guest on the show, with the presenter RYAN SEACREST. Seacrest rants about how stars screw around with his schedule, and Alison advises him to calm down. Alison is then called in to see the bosses.
- The bosses explain that they want to offer Alison the opportunity to work in front of the camera, and Alison is thrilled. Her boss then explains, in a very roundabout way, that they want her to lose weight.
- Cut to Alison celebrating with her sister. Peter is informed of Alison’s promotion and says, sarcastically: “hey maybe now you can get your own place”. The sisters decide to go out and celebrate, and Peter agrees to watch the kids.
- Alison and Debbie drive along on their way to the club, and Debbie tells Alison about the time she caught Peter masturbating.
- Cut to outside the club, where there’s a big queue. We see Ben and his gang at the front of the queue. The girls sweep to the front of the queue and are ushered inside immediately, to complaints from the crowd.
- Inside the club, Ben and his gang discuss the film Munich. “If any of us get laid tonight it’s because of Eric Bana in Munich”, says Seth. They then ridicule their friend Martin, who’s come out just wearing a vest.
- Cut to Alison and Debbie in another part of the club. “It’s like everyone in here is like 12 years old”, says Debbie. The girls talk about age and Debbie wants reassurance that she still looks sexy: “guys in here would fuck me, right?” Alison goes off to get them some drinks.
- Cut to Ben at the bar, struggling to get served. Alison comes and stands next to him, and they both moan about the lack of service. Taking the initiative, Ben reaches over the counter and just grabs a couple of beers, dumping some cash on the bar as he does so. He gives one to Alison, but then she remembers that she meant to get one for her sister too, and Ben offers her his beer too. She thanks him, and introduces herself, and Ben seems on the verge of continuing the chat-up, but then retreats into his shell.
- Cut to later on. Ben points Alison out across the club, and tells his mates how she gave him “an opening” but he failed to take it. Ben mentions that Alison’s with her sister, and Ben and Jason head off across the club to chat the girls up.
- Ben approaches and introduces Jason, and Alison does likewise with Debbie. Jason tells Debbie that she’s beautiful, and Alison chips in that she’s married, which Debbie didn’t want Jason to know. Alison then reveals that Debbie has two kids, and Debbie tells her to shut up. “You think that’ll stop him hitting on her”, says Ben, “well it won’t”. Debbie then gets a call – one of her kids might have chicken pox, so she has to go. Debbie asks if Alison is coming, and Alison replies that she’s going to stay. Debbie leaves and then so does Jason, so that Ben and Alison can “get to know one another”.
- Montage sequence of Ben and Alison: downing shots; dancing wildly; chatting and finally going back to Alison’s together.
- They leave the club and start kissing.
- Then get out of the cab and stumble towards the house.
- Then fall into bed and begin undressing. “Mmm you’re prettier than I am”, says Ben at one point. Alison then asks if he has a condom, and Ben grabs one from his jeans, but struggles to put it on. Alison gets impatient and tells him: “let’s just do it already”, and Ben takes this is a signal that’s it’s ok not to use the condom. They begin having sex…
- Cut to the following morning. Alison is up, looking at Ben’s naked ass with some disgust, while he snores away. She prods him awake using her foot, and when he stirs he asks her if they had sex, and she confirms that they did. She explains that she has to get to work, and he asks her if she wants to get breakfast first, which she does.
- They leave her annex, and they meet Peter out on the lawn. “Ah to be young”, quips Peter.
- In a café, Ben returns from the toilet where he’s “just yakked”. Ben praises the restorative powers of weed, and then asks what Alison does for a living (for the second time). She explains that they had that conversation the night before, and that she’s doing her first on-air interview that day. She goes on to ask him what he does, and he explains that he and his room-mates have started an internet website, detailing all the movies where famous actresses get naked, and when. Alison looks increasingly concerned by Ben’s enthusiastic rant, and says that she has to go. He then asks for her number, and she gives him her business card. He explains that he doesn’t have a cellphone at that precise moment, but that she can email him at email@example.com . They hug and Alison heads off, leaving Ben to reflect that the meeting was “fucking brutal”.
- Cut to Alison round at Debbie’s telling her that her fling with Ben was “a huge mistake”. At the end of the conversation, Debbie asks Alison if she and Ben used a condom, and Alison replies that they did.
- Round at Ben’s house, his friends ask him if he thinks Alison will meet him again, and he explains that she was “totally repulsed by me”.
- Cut to an image of a sperm impregnating an egg, and a title card which reads: “8 weeks later”.
- Cut to Alison on TV, presenting on the E! Channel, interviewing James Franco from Spiderman. Alison seems unwell during the interview, and then suddenly runs off-camera and vomits in a bin.
- Cut to Alison watching the footage back in the edit suite with BRENT (Bill Hader). She asks him to edit out the tricky footage, but then vomits again. “I hope you’re not pregnant”, says Brent, and Alison replies: “don’t be ridiculous, you have to have sex to get pregnant”.
- Cut to Alison talking to Debbie back at home. Alison is desperately trying to work out whether she’s pregnant or not, and Debbie cracks jokes at her expense. Alison then produces video footage on her phone of she and Ben dancing in the club, and then we cut to…
- Alison and Debbie running through the supermarket. They come to the home pregnancy kits, and grab as many different varieties as possible.
- They arrive home and Alison proceeds to try all of them all, with identical results each time. At one point Peter sneaks his head round the corner, and takes a peak at the bizarre going’s on.
- Cut to later on, and Alison lies by the pool with Debbie trying to convince herself that it’s all going to be fine. Debbie advises Alison to call Ben, and Alison wonders aloud whether she could get away with calling him after she’s had the baby. “He doesn’t even have a phone”, says Alison, “due to some ‘billing issue’ or something”. Alison says that she’ll have to look Ben up on his “stupid” website, Debbie asks what type of website he’s got, and Alison tells her about it.
- Cut to a shot of a computer screen, featuring the “Flesh of the Stars” logo, which apparently is under construction. They email Ben, asking him to send over his number because they need to speak right away.
- Cut to round at Ben’s house where all the gang are getting high. Ben has a gas mask on and his smoking weed, doing a Darth Vader impression. Jason then pipes up that Flesh of the Stars just got an email, and Jason reads it out, and the boys whoop and cheer. Ben gets Jason to send the number back…
- Cut to Alison dialling a number…
- Back to Ben’s house and the phone rings, and Ben has to hush the other boys while he answers. We intercut between their conversation – while Alison is very nervous and sensitive, Ben is treating it all as a big joke. They arrange to meet up the following night, and by the end of the conversation all Ben’s mates are performing faux sex acts on one another.
- Cut to Alison and Ben out to dinner at a nice restaurant. Alison says that they should get to know one another, and Ben explains that he’s from Vancouver but living in the USA illegally, which works out for him because he doesn’t have to pay taxes, and he also doesn’t have a paying job. He lives, he explains, by dipping into some money he was given years earlier when a postal truck ran over his foot. He explains that he has $900 left which should last him 2 years. Alison then decides to just come out with what she has to say, and tells him she’s pregnant. “Fuck off!” says Ben initially, and then backtracks, trying to comprehend the news. He then explains that he didn’t wear a condom because she told him to “just do it”, and they begin to argue furiously about whose fault it is. She tells him that she’s going to see the gynaecologist next week, and that he says that he’s convinced she’s not pregnant.
- Cut to the gynaecologist’s office, which is full of babies, which Ben looks at with a bemused look on his face. Alison is then called in, and brings Ben in with her.
- Cut to inside the office, where the gynaecologist enters and introduces himself as THOMAS PELEGRINO. Pelegrino examines Alison, and quickly ascertains that she’s pregnant. The doctor congratulates them, and then Alison bursts into tears and Ben looks dazed.
- Cut to Ben’s house, where the boys try criticise Ben for getting himself in this fix, and generally communicate inanely with one another. Eventually, having heard enough, Ben gets up and walks out.
- Cut to Alison out for lunch with her mother, who is trying to persuade her to “take care of it, and move on”. Alison explains that she’s not going to tell her employers for a while, but her mother insists that having the baby at all is a “big, big mistake”.
- Cut to Ben out to lunch with his father (Harold Ramis), who’s delighted that he’s going to be a grandfather. Ben insists that the pregnancy is a disaster, but his father replies that “stuff happens to you and you’ve just gotta deal with it”. His father ends the conversation by telling Ben that he’s the best thing that ever happened to him. “Well now I just feel sorry for you”, says Ben.
- Cut to Alison, alone, calling Ben. She tells him that she’s decided to keep the baby, and he reiterates his father’s earlier words about having to just deal with the things life throws him. “Whatever you wanna do, I’m on board”, he says. They then decide to meet up for a date.
- Cut to Alison driving round to Ben’s house. She enters the boys’ living room, and Jason comes over and tells her that her body is “responding really well to the pregnancy”. Ben ducks out to grab a shirt, leaving Alison alone with his housemates. There’s an uncomfortable silence, and Alison notices that the lesbian scene from Wild Things is playing on TV. “Just another day at the office”, says Jonah. More uncomfortable, inane comments from the housemates follow, until Jay emerges from the bathroom proudly revealing that he’s shaved his pubes. Jonah goes ballistic at this, claiming that last time he “went for a crap” it looked like “a stuffed animal”. Ben finally appears, and they head off.
- At dinner, Alison reveals that if their one night-stand hadn’t happened, then she wouldn’t have had kids for 10 years at least. Ben, for his part, jokes that he’d only recently got used to the idea that someone would want to have sex with him.
- Montage sequence of Ben and Alison shopping for baby things. Ben promises to read all the baby books they buy very quickly. Later, Ben and Alison hold hands while walking through the mall.
- Cut to Debbie and Peter getting ready for bed. Peter asks in a business-like fashion whether they’re going to have sex that night, and Debbie replies that she’s constipated at the moment. They then discuss Ben and Alison, and Debbie tells her that they’re going to help Alison raise the baby.
- Cut to Alison and Ben making out. Ben gets a little too excited and they have a frank conversation about their feelings for one another, and also how they’ve got 7 months until the baby arrives, and they should just take it slow and get to know one another. Alison then asks him what he’d do on the second date, and Ben replies: “BJ – I told my roommates I thought I was going to get a BJ”. Realising his mistake, he then backtracks, and explains that he’s nervous. They then begin kissing, and promise not to screw each other over.
- Cut to the following morning. Everyone (including Ben) has breakfast together, and the kids grill Ben about being Alison’s “new boyfriend”. The conversation becomes increasingly awkward as topics of love and marriage arise.
- Cut to Ben sitting in the kids’ dolls’ house in the garden. He plays “fetch” with them, and Debbie and Alison look on, weighing up Ben. Debbie is dubious, but Alison asks her to give him a break, and Debbie agrees to this.
- Cut to Ben and Peter watching the kids play in the playground. Ben is anxious about his future, and Peter does little to reassure him.
- Cut to the boys playing table tennis outside their mini frat house. Ben asks them for money to launch their website, but the others aren’t keen to “rush the process”. In the end Ben persuades them to get the site up and running in 3 months.
- Ben and Alison drive along on their way to the gynaecologist’s, and Ben complains about the nature of a gynaecologist’s job. They banter with one another about who Alison would most like to have a threesome with out of his roommates.
- Montage of: a deranged doctor interrogating Alison about whether she’s ever smoked a cigarette; Alison and Ben in the gym, working out; another deranged doctor, hitting on Alison even as he examines her; Jason’s crazy girlfriend asking Alison if she wants to trade boyfriends; yet another crazy doctor mistaking Alison’s anus for her vagina; all the boys going out paintballing without Ben, who claims he doesn’t want to go; Alison helping Ben with noting down the timings of nudity in various films; and then finally them meeting another mad doctor who Alison seems to approve of.
- Shot of inside Alison’s belly, with the caption: 16 weeks.
- Alison being fitted for a dress at work. Her wardrobe assistant asks her if she’s pregnant and she tries to deny it but eventually admits that she’s worried about telling the bosses. The assistant then tells her that they’ll try to hide it, but that she should just come clean.
- Cut to Debbie looking at a sex offender website, seeing where all the offenders are in their neighbourhood. Peter cracks a joke and the discussion descends into an argument, with Peter accusing Debbie of being too uptight about everything. Ben has been watching this unfold, and then Alison appears and says that it’s time for them to go. Peter then says that he has to go and see a band play in the valley, so can’t come.
- Cut to Debbie and Alison going round a baby store. “You mean you don’t want to know the sex of the baby”, says Debbie, “that’s no fun”. Alison replies that Ben knows, but she’s sworn him to secrecy. Debbie swears to get it out of him. They join Ben looking at a cot, and Ben baulks at the price. Debbie maintains that they need to have their own crib, but Alison wants to borrow Debbie’s. Debbie replies that she needs to buy them a present anyway so may as well buy them that. Alison tries to say no out of politeness but Ben is perfectly happy to accept the gift.
- They leave the store and Alison is shocked to see some of her old school friends coming in. She can’t avoid them, and after the introductions one of them asks whether Debbie’s having another baby. “No, Alison is”, blurts out Ben, and Alison looks uneasy at having this information released. Her friends are amazed and Ben tries to tell them the story of how Alison got pregnant, she tries to stop him, but in the end he just carries on anyway.
- Cut to Ben and Peter at the record store, rifling through LPs. Ben recalls the earlier incident at the baby shop, saying that he thinks Alison was embarrassed because he hasn’t made an honest woman of her. They go on to talk about how much you’re meant to spend on a wedding ring, and the conversation then leads on to Ben’s website which Peter refers to as “porn”. Ben protests that it’s not porn, and gives him a run-down on what the website actually is but Peter replies, ominously, “what like Mr. Skin?”
- Cut to Ben and all his mates checking out the “Mr. Skin” website. They’re distressed, as someone has obviously got there first, and there’s a brief moment of blame-shifting until someone points out that Spiderman 3 is on TV soon, and they all slope off to watch it, apart from Martin. Ben lights a joint and starts arguing that good things come in pairs, and that just because there’s another site out there doesn’t mean that theirs won’t work.
- Cut to later on. Ben presents Alison with an empty wedding ring box, and promises her that he will fill it with a ring one day. He then asks her to marry him because he’s in love with her. She tells him that she loves him too, and he’s relieved, but she goes on to say that she doesn’t really know what that love means yet “because it’s so new and so exciting”. “I don’t want us to put any more pressure on ourselves than we already have”, says Alison.
- Cut to Alison and Debbie in bed, eating ice cream and watching TV. Alison explains that Ben proposed to her, but with a box with no ring in it. Debbie finds this highly amusing, and they then get into a discussion about love and what it means. “I thought you were just meant to accept people for who they are and love them anyway”, says Alison, whereas Debbie’s view is: “you criticise them a lot so they get down on themselves and are forced to change…and in the end, they thank you for it”.
- Cut to the sisters driving along, with Debbie telling Alison that she shouldn’t make a commitment to Ben, because she doesn’t even know him. She then confesses that she thinks Pete’s cheating on her because he’s “always going off to these business meetings at odd hours” and is always claiming that he’s got no reception.
- Cut to the girls using some web memory spying software to try and work out what Pete’s been up to. “See you hide from me now little man”, Debbie mutters.
- Shot of the baby at 24 weeks.
- Cut to Debbie, Pete, Alison and Ben all out to dinner together. “Isn’t it weird how when you have a kid all your hopes and dreams go right out the window?”, says Pete. So ensues a conversation in which the men are frank about their fears and the women are unimpressed. The conversation is peppered with Back to the Future references, which also fail to impress.
- That night, Ben and Alison have sex, but Ben is worried about hurting the baby. “All I see is the baby being poked in the face by my penis”, says Ben. They try it with her on top, but she thinks she looks “disgusting” from this angle, and they then try other positions but none of them seem to satisfy both of them. Eventually Alison moves away from him and says, sarcastically, “don’t worry I won’t make you do this again”.
- Cut to Ben smoking his bong in the middle of the night. There’s an earthquake, and everyone in the house piles out, and Alison is annoyed with Ben for not being in bed with her, and for continuing to smoke weed. Ben throws his bong away when the police drive past.
- Later that night, Ben and Alison sit in the mess of his room, and she sees a bank statement that reads that he has just over $100 in his account. She also sees that the books they bought about becoming a father haven’t been read, and she’s annoyed.
- Shot of the baby at 28 weeks.
- Cut to Ben at home. He gets a call from Alison at work, who explains that they need to go to dinner with Pete and Debbie that night, because Debbie thinks Pete’s cheating on her. Alison wants them to “diffuse” the situation a little.
- Cut to the four of them having dinner. They’re having good time, until Pete says that he has to dash off to catch a new band in Laurel Canyon and mentions that the phone reception may be bad. As Pete leaves, Ben argues that Pete is acting normally “and hilarious”.
- Debbie, Alison and Ben pull up outside an unknown house and Debbie jumps out.
- Inside the house, Alison and Ben join Debbie, who begins creeping upstairs. She returns, explaining that there’s no-one up there, but when she comes down she hears a sound in the living room, and they go through where they find Pete composing a fantasy baseball draft with a load of other guys. Debbie furious, and storms out. “Hey Pete, don’t let the door hit you in the vagina on the way out”, quips one of his friends.
- Outside, Pete tries to make amends with Debbie. He explains that he needs his own space, and to do his own thing sometimes, but she’s very upset and tells him that she doesn’t want him at the house anymore. She storms off.
- Cut to Ben and Alison driving along. Alison can’t stop thinking about “what an asshole” Pete is. Ben thinks this is a little harsh, and explains that he thinks it’s quite funny, and understandable. “I’m just saying, when you’re a guy, and you have a family, you lose that male camaraderie”, he explains, “and I totally understand where he’s coming from”. This provokes a rant from Debbie, which culminates in her telling Ben to get out of the car.
- Cut to Alison being weighed at the surgery. Ben wanders in, and their argument continues: she accuses him of not reading the baby books, he replies with a sarcastic gag, and she criticises him for his “lack of commitment”. The argument then grows nastier, as she argues that they should split up, and the scene ends with Ben storming out.
- Cut to Ben and Pete in a bar, discussing their women troubles. “Marriage is like a very tense, very unfunny version of Everyone Loves Raymond”, says Pete, “but it doesn’t last 22 minutes, it last forever”. Ben suggests they just get out of there, and go to Vegas, and Pete agrees.
- Cut to Alison watching TV. Debbie storms in, turns off the TV, and says that they need to get out and go and have some fun.
- Meanwhile Ben and Pete go round to Ben’s frat house, where they’ve all caught an eye condition (“pink-eye”), so they can’t come to Vegas.
- Ben and Pete drive to Vegas and discuss how free they feel. Pete also explains that he’s bought some mushrooms, and has got them tickets to Cirque du Solei. Ben’s thrilled.
- Cut to Ben and Pete having lapdances. Pete rubs his face in the strippers backside, and Ben says: “now that’s how you get pink-eye”.
- Cut to outside the club where Ben first met Alison. The bouncer who let them in earlier refuses this time, but then let’s two other women in ahead of them. This sets Debbie off, and she rants away at the doorman, who then takes her to one side, explains how much he hates his job, and then tells Debbie that she’s too old to get in and Alison’s pregnant. In the end the pair of them stalk off away from the club.
- Cut to Ben and Pete, high on mushrooms, giggling as they walk along a pool.
- Inside the Cirque du Solei, Ben and Pete are increasingly freaking out as they watch the show, until Ben can’t take it anymore and has to walk out.
- Alison and Debbie sit on the curb of a street, and Debbie laments the end of her youth. “I get worse-looking, and he gets better-looking”, says Debbie, “and it’s so fucking unfair”.
- Cut to Ben and Pete high back in their hotel room. Ben reprimands himself for not reading the baby books. Ben asks Pete if he thinks the girls will take them back, and Pete replies that they will, although he wonders sometimes how anyone could even like him. “The biggest problem in our marriage”, says Pete, “is that Debbie loves me so much she wants me around all the time”. “I don’t think I can accept her love”, adds Pete, “there’s something wrong with me”. In the end their conversation descends into gibberish and they decide they want to go home.
- Cut to the girls preparing for one of the kids’ birthday parties. Debbie asks Alison if she thinks Ben will come to the party and she acts nonchalant about it.
- Cut to Ben turning up at the party. He has a brief conversation with one of Debbie’s girls who tells him that everyone has been slating him while he’s been away.
- Ben enters and says hi to Pete, and Debbie. After Debbie’s left, Ben makes fun of Pete for being under the thumb, and they share some banter. Ben then heads off to see Alison.
- Cut to Ben and Alison, alone. “I just don’t think we can make it work”, says Alison, “I don’t want this baby to determine the rest of our lives, and I also don’t want to end up like Debbie”. Alison goes on to say that she doesn’t want them to force it, and that if Ben wants to do mushrooms in Vegas he can do. She also says that he can be in the baby’s life as much as he likes but that they should just remain friends. Ben pleads for a chance to show her that he’s changed, but they’re interrupted by Debbie and the moment passes.
- Ben storms into the kitchen and runs into Pete, and gives him an earful about telling Debbie about them doing mushrooms in Vegas. He also tells Pete that because she thinks Pete is a “shitty husband”, so it goes that Ben is going to be a shitty husband too. Ben leaves and Pete goes out to the party and starts singing happy birthday.
- Cut to Alison on the red carpet for E!, interviewing Jessica Alba, Eva Mendes, Steve Carrell and others. Alison has an argument with Steve Carrell and he storms off.
- Alison sits in the edit suite with Brent, and he marvels that she managed to annoy Steve Carrell.
- Cut to Ben giving his father an earbashing about how things have turned out – he blames his father for telling him that “everything is going to be fine”. His father tells him to take responsibility for himself, and asks his father what to do. His father doesn’t come up with any great suggestions, though, and the scene ends with Ben seriously hacked off.
- Montage: Ben at a web design studio – he’s got a proper job now; Ben looking round apartments to rent; Alison very pregnant having a scan; Ben moving out of his frat house, with his mates helping him unload the stuff; Alison and Debbie in an ante natal class; Ben picking out pyjamas for the baby; Ben doing up a nursery for the baby.
- Cut to Alison meeting her boss. “We know what’s under that jacket”, he says. Alison tries to explain that she didn’t want to lose her job, but her boss reassures her by telling her that they’ve done some research, which shows that people “like pregnant”. He reveals that they’re going to do a maternity month, in which Alison is going to interview all the pregnant celebrities.
- Cut to Debbie and Pete taking the kids away for the weekend, leaving Alison in charge of the house.
- Later, Alison watches Wild Things on TV, but then seems to feel some contractions.
- Ben, meanwhile, is reading the baby books dutifully when Jason calls up and asks him what he’s doing. Ben lies, saying that he’s smoking a joint and drinking beers. Jason asks if he’s coming to the club with them, but Ben declines. Jason and Seth make fun of Ben down the phone, before the conversation ends.
- Cut to Alison getting into bed, but feeling contractions. She calls her doctor, but gets through to another one, who offers to help her through her labour. She wants her own doctor though, and hangs up the phone in frustration.
- In desperation Alison calls Ben, and asks him to come and pick her up and take her to the hospital.
- Ben arrives at Debbie and Pete’s house and eventually finds Alison in the bath tub. She tells him to call her doctor, and he eventually gets through to his voicemail. Ben leaves an incredibly offensive message, and then goes back through to Alison and tells her that he left the doctor a “very nice” message. He then breaks the news to her that the doctor is at a Bar Mitzvah, and isn’t going to make it that night. Ben explains that they’re going to drive to the hospital, and call every gynaecologist they’ve met on the way. Ben then displays his baby knowledge, and Alison is delighted he read the baby books.
- They arrive at the hospital, and go to the front desk. They then encounter two very casual, offhand medical staff. Alison explains that she wants to have the baby naturally, and not use drugs.
- Outside in the waiting room, all Ben’s friends are gathered. Jonah is struggling, however, because he hates hospitals.
- Meanwhile back in the delivery room, the baby’s heart-rate is slowing and the doctor and nurse return. The doctor thinks the cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck, and wants to use medicine to induce the birth, and give Alison some drugs for the pain. Alison really doesn’t want to do this, however, and she and the doctor begin arguing. Ben asks to speak to the doctor outside in the corridor…
- The doctor describes Alison as a control freak, and wants to be allowed to get on with his job – delivering the baby safely. In the end Ben pleads with the doctor to be nice to Alison, and they re-enter the delivery room on good terms.
- The doctor apologises for being “a little brash” with Alison, and then leaves the room. Alison then apologies to Ben for breaking up with him – “I guess I never thought the guy who got me pregnant would be the right guy for me”, she says.
- Cut to Seth and Martin messing around using wheelchairs in the hospital corridors.
- Debbie and Pete then arrive, and Debbie thanks Ben for being there, but says that she can handle it from there. Ben asks to speak to her in the corridor, and tells her in no uncertain terms that she won’t be in the room for the birth. “Back the fuck off”, he tells her.
- Debbie wanders over to the waiting area, with a new-found respect for Ben, who she thinks is going to be “a good dad”.
- In the delivery room Alison has changed her mind and now wants drugs for the pain, but the doctor says it’s too late for that. Alison begins shrieking and screaming.
- Out in the waiting area, Alison’s noises are freaking Jonah and Jay out. Jay gets up to go and see if there’s anything he can do.
- He enters just as Alison is “crowning”, and everyone shouts at him to get out.
- He returns to the waiting area horrified at what he’s seen. “Try getting a boner now”, says Jonah.
- Back in the delivery room, and Alison gives birth to a healthy baby girl, and she and Ben tell each other how much they love one another.
- In the delivery room, Martin wants out of the long-running bet, and finally admits that Jason is “the master”.
- Debbie and Pete enter the delivery room and are overjoyed at the sight of the baby. Debbie even tells Ben that she loves him, and that she and Pete are going to have another baby.
- Ben goes out into the corridor and announces the birth to his friends, who mob him triumphantly.
- Cut to later on. Alison is asleep, and Ben is telling the sleeping baby about how they got together.
- Alison and Ben leave the hospital.
- Ben drives them home, and Alison says that she hopes his apartment is big enough for the three of them. He cracks a joke about living in east LA, an how they need to decide whether they’re bloods or crips. “I look good in red”, says Alison, but Ben replies: “well I look good in blue, so the fighting continues”.
- Final shot: camera pans up to a high shot of Ben’s car moving along the freeway, driving at a snail’s pace…
- Credits role to a series of photos of Ben, Alison and the baby with some of the other characters we’ve met during the film.
- Did you enjoy this post? Why not check out our analysis of SUPERBAD?
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