Synopsis: Five years after writer/director Judd Apatow introduced us to Pete and Debbie in Knocked Up, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their roles as a husband and wife both approaching a milestone meltdown in This Is 40, an unfiltered, comedic look inside the life of an American family. After years of marriage, Pete lives in a house of all females: wife Debbie and their two daughters, eight-year-old Charlotte (Iris Apatow) and 13-year-old Sadie (Maude Apatow). As he struggles to keep his record label afloat, he and Debbie must figure out how to forgive, forget and enjoy the rest of their lives…before they kill each other.
Release Date: December 21, 2012 MPAA Rating: PG-13
After a string of successes exploring all of life’s funny little intricacies – from being a 40 year old virgin to facing life-threatening cancer – director Judd Apatow has delivered This is 40, a film that feels like the culmination of all of his work thus far. It’s a comedy about married life at the age of 40, and all the little “joys” that come with hitting such an impressive milestone. At the center of This is 40‘s story are Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), the same married couple from Knocked Up, who at times are blissfully in love and other times are at each other throats. They’re supposed to be the atypical couple, a relatable version of man and wife that argue about things that “real” people argue about, and find humor in the situations that “really” happen.
I put the term real in quotes because by now we get Apatow’s shtick: he tells it like it is. But in This is 40‘s case most especially he does so in service of a story that, at its base level, appeals mostly to him. His jokes are, for the most part, funny enough that anyone will laugh, but where the real magic of his films comes is in its ability to elicit a “that’s me” or “that’s us” reaction. Unfortunately, as Apatow has moved closer and closer into more personal material, he has moved further away from delivering a comedy that appeals to a wide audience.
That said, This is 40 is still an extremely funny film, one that features more than its fair share of hilarious scenes, even if it isn’t quite as relatable as Apatow’s earlier work. The gross out and R-rated humor is there, as is the clearly improvised scenes, so in that regard this is still Apatow done right. Unfortunately, a lot of the comedy is packed into a really dense narrative (the film is 134 minutes long) that, at times, is a real struggle to get through.
Fans of Apatow’s work will find enough to enjoy in This is 40 that they won’t be disappointed, but they will wonder why such a story was worth telling or why the film needs to be this long. Overall, though, the film is worth a recommendation because comedies that are truly funny, and at the same time honest, are still so rare these days.
Judd Apatow, the director, has never been a restrained fellow – he paces his movies like a sweeping drama rather than a light comedy. It’s a tactic that has worked for him in the past, but only based on the strength of his story. Unfortunately, This is 40 is a rather weak story, one that meanders for the majority of its run time, and only delivers a worthwhile message after some last minute contrivances save the day. There are so many plots being juggled – Pete and Debbie surprisingly deal with the same problems, only as separate story threads – that most never get the worthwhile resolution or even more than a scene for closure.
However, when Apatow is clever he’s clever and there’s no denying his ability to create scenes that don’t feel like rip-offs of old skits or plays on old jokes. Here, more than ever, there’s the sense he’s running out of ideas and simply looking around the house for some, but it’s hard to deny he’s talented.
The story overall comes close to becoming a chore, but thankfully the film is littered with an array of interesting characters – most notably Melissa McCarthy’s angry mom and Jason Segel’s fitness instructor – who keep the audience entertained long after they’ve felt like the story has made its point. Had This is 40 been about 15-30 minutes shorter it would have probably felt less like an Apatow film, but it might have been more enjoyable as a result.
Like I mentioned, This is 40 is a funny movie it just falters in its execution more so than any Apatow-directed film thus far. It’s still an Apatow movie, though, so those who aren’t up on their pop culture might struggle to find the humor in a lot of the film’s more niche jokes. For example, there’s an ongoing gag featuring the TV show “LOST” that, if you’re not familiar with the show, falls completely flat. Some sense of why it’s funny can be gleaned from an outsider’s perspective, but the more familiar you are the funnier you’ll find the joke.
The same could be said for the film as a whole: the more it broaches your own life the funnier you’ll find it. So if you’re a married forty-something who at times bickers with their significant other you’ll find more to enjoy about This is 40 than a 19 year old kid that’s never had a girlfriend. Will that 19 year old spend the whole movie with their arms crossed? No, they’ll actually still laugh quite a bit, but their overall enjoyment might skew lower than someone who falls more closely in line with the main characters.
Cast and Crew
- Screenwriter(s): Judd Apatow
- Cast: Paul Rudd (Pete)Leslie Mann (Debbie) Maude Apatow (Sadie)Iris Apatow (Charlotte)Jason Segel (Jason)Annie Mumolo (Barb)Megan Fox (Desi)Charlyne Yi (Jodi)
- Cinematographer: Phedon Papamichael
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Jon Brion
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA