Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 2 hours, 14 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Jason Segel, Robert Smigel, Megan Fox, Graham Parker
Written & Directed by Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People)
The scene-stealing couple from writer/director Judd Apatow's 2007 film, Knocked Up, get their own movie with This is 40. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their roles as Pete and Debbie, the hilarious couple that became so popular because of how true-to-life their relationship seemed in that first film. Funny (or not, I guess), how time changes everything. What a difference a few years can make in both a marriage and in a director's ability to reign himself in.
Judd Apatow has a lot to say about marriage, relationships, family, parenthood and the wear-and-tear time can have on all of them. It appears he left nothing out of This is 40. At well over two hours, there seems to be a better, tighter, shorter film in there somewhere. But like a potential partner I guess, you can't just pick and choose the parts that you like, you have to evaluate the whole bloated glob, warts and all. If I was on a date with This is 40, I would thank it for the nice evening, ending it with a firm handshake and by leaving a fake phone number.
Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann, Apatow's real-life wife) both give great performances as a long-married couple approaching the age of 40. As most couples do, Pete and Debbie both face a load of problems as they try to navigate the rocky waters of married life. Their two young daughters (Iris & Maude Apatow, Judd's real-life children) add to the weight bearing down on them, due to financial troubles stemming from Pete's struggling record label.
We see Debbie and Pete carry on a conversation while Pete sits on the toilet and we all relate to the reality of it. We see the couple trying to share an intimate moment while their kids scream and fight in the background. While Pete loses confidence and interest because of his financial instability, Debbie faces the fears most females do approaching 40, with the feelings of being unwanted, unattractive and past their sexual, physical and mental prime.
When This is 40 focuses on these relatable elements, it is sharp and funny. There is no questioning Apatow's feel for comedy, for knowing when to push the envelope and knowing when to pull back. But his script meanders into all kinds of different places, some of which are funny - like Debbie's relationship with her young, hot employee (Megan Fox, her best role yet) - and some that don't quite relate to one another.
Albert Brooks, for example, is great as Pete's mooch of a dad. John Lithgow shows up as Debbie's estranged father. Both actors do a fine job, but what is this film about? How do these story elements fit in with the others? This is 40 is about so much more than being 40. Some of the strands remain loose by film's end and it's never made clear how everything is supposed to tie together.
This is not a lousy film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is disappointing to know that it could have been a better film. Being billed as the "sort-of sequel to Knocked Up," This is 40 is never all that funny, in the laugh-out-loud sense, and is not nearly as funny as its predecessor. By the time This is 50 hits theaters, let's hope Apatow continues to give us keen, comedic insights but in shorter, more potent doses.
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