Paul Rudd as Pete
Leslie Mann as Debbie
Maude Apatow as Sadie
Iris Apatow as Charlotte
Jason Segel as Jason
Annie Mumolo as Barb
Robert Smigel as Barry
Megan Fox as Desi
Charlyne Yi as Jodi
Graham Parker as Himself
Albert Brooks as Larry
John Lithgow as Oliver
Melissa McCarthy as Catherine
Chris ODowd as Ronnie
Directed by Judd Apatow
“This Is 40” features a lot of Judd Apatow’s signature humor, a strong supporting cast, and a lot of familiar moments for anyone with kids, but a meandering plot and an overbearing lead character ultimately hurt the film.
“This Is 40” is a sort of sequel to the 2007 film “Knocked Up.”
Debbie is about to turn 40 at the same time as her husband Pete. While he’s OK with it, Debbie finds the milestone to be rather traumatic. Age is starting to take its toll on her body, she feels like Pete is uninterested in her romantically, and she feels less attractive when compared to her sexy employee Desi. Matters are made worse by financial woes in their family businesses and a hormonal teenage daughter.
Debbie and Pete begin to try and rekindle their relationship and come to terms with life at 40, but they are going to have to resolve issues from their past in order to face their future.
“This Is 40” is rated R for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material.
I was really looking forward to “This Is 40.” I like Judd Apatow’s films, I enjoyed “Knocked Up,” and I’m a big fan of Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann. So I was surprised to find myself disappointed with this movie. But before I focus on the negatives, I want to highlight the positives.
Being a nearly 40-year-old parent myself, I identified with a lot in “This Is 40.” I’ve had to deal with a hormonal teenage daughter and the incredible amount of drama along with it. I’ve had the debate with the kids about restricting internet and computer access, not to mention their counter-argument that “I need it for homework!!!” I’ve dealt with the physical limitations that turning 40 brings. There’s so much in “This Is 40” I could point at and say, “Been there, done that!” That makes it a lot of fun. But even if you’re not a 40-year-old married person with children, there’s a lot of great humor here. There’s a funny running gag where Sadie is watching the series “Lost” for the first time. Her reaction to the series is quite amusing, especially if you watched “Lost” yourself. There is also a great side storyline about one of Debbie’s employees stealing money from the store. Its final resolution is a bizzare and amusing footnote to the film. A long string of jokes featuring Pete playing “Words With Friends” and “Scrabble” on the iPad while on the toilet is also amusing. So as you can see, Apatow offers up a wide range of jokes that everybody can identify with.
If you liked Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann in “Knocked Up,” you’ll be happy to see them settle into their roles again with ease. Rudd is a likable everyman and Mann continues to show her talent as a great comedienne. Mann is at her best when she’s on screen with her daughters. Maude Apatow plays Sadie while Iris Apatow plays Charlotte. They offer some of the best laughs of the film, because you know their father is getting such natural reactions from them. Their performances feel less like pre-written roles and more like Apatow home movies.
Apatow has always been great with ensemble casts and it’s no different here. He gives every one of his supporting cast members a moment to shine and, more importantly, allows them to improvise extensively. These moments end up being some of the better moments of the film. Melissa McCarthy gets to cut loose as Catherine, an irate mother who Debbie and Pete have a confrontation with. Chris O’Dowd and Jason Segel hilariously and ineffectively flirt with Megan Fox, one of the highlights of “This Is 40.” Then you have Albert Brooks as Pete’s father. He’s also the father of young triplets and his interaction with them is very funny. Then you have musician Graham Parker gamely parodying himself and his niche music. Throw in great performances by Charlyne Yi, John Lithgow, and Robert Smigel and you end up with one of the best supporting casts of 2012.
I always like the music in Judd Apatow’s films and he offers another great selection in “This Is 40.” Besides music from Graham Parker, there are songs by Ryan Adams, Louden Wainwright, Lindsey Buckingham, The Avett Brothers, Paul Simon, and more. It’s a nice mix of tunes.
What Didn’t Work:
One of my big problems with “This Is 40” is the meandering plot. We were 45 minutes into this film when I turned to my wife and said, “I still dont know where this movie is going.” While “Knocked Up” worked towards the eventual childbirth and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” worked up to Andy losing his virginity, “This Is 40” has no clear destination in mind. While Debbie freaking out about being 40 was the core of the story, the actual film felt more like a series of smaller stories or pieces from Judd Apatow’s life strung together into a script. They all felt standalone and you could practically cut any one from the film and not affect the narrative. And when the film is 2 hours and 14 minutes long, the extra material is less welcome.
Leslie Mann is one of my favorite actresses, but I have to admit that her character in this film is rather unsympathetic. More often than not I found myself siding with Pete in their arguments. When she barges in on Pete while he’s on the toilet, I understand why he’s annoyed with her. When Debbie insists on using homeopathic remedies to cure her daughter’s ear infection, I had to side with Pete when he secretly took his daughter to a doctor to get antibiotics. Time and time again in this film, you think, “Debbie is definitely high maintenance.” I liked her so much in “Knocked Up” I was surprised to find myself annoyed by her here. The hormonal teenager Sadie comes across as the most sane member of the family.
While Judd Apatow featuring his wife and kids in “This Is 40” can be some of the highlights of the film, it also ends up being some of the lowlights, too. In one scene, Pete and Debbie are having an intimate moment. She’s performing oral sex on him. Then the children come to the locked door and start banging on it wanting in. It’s a funny scene because any married couple can attest to the fact that children can ruin any romantic or sexual moment. But then you realize that Apatow is directing his wife in a scene where she’s supposed to be giving a blowjob to Paul Rudd. Then you realize that Apatow is directing his two young daughters in a scene where they’re supposed to be interrupting their mother from performing the said act. Once you imagine Apatow explaining and directing this scene with his kids, it goes from being funny to kind of creepy. This carries over into other nude scenes featuring Mann. It’s not any less creepy if a stranger directs it, but your mind is less likely to go in that direction when the fact that they’re all related is not one of the selling points of the film.
The Bottom Line:
I think people who are 40, have families, and are fans of Judd Apatow are most likely to enjoy “This Is 40,” but even they will probably agree that this is not Apatow’s best film.