This Is 40 (2012)

Posted: December 21, 2013 in Movie Review
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This is 40 (2012)

Director: Judd Apatow

Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, John Lithgow, Megan Fox, Albert Brooks

If this is what turning 40 is like, I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. I love crass humor. Jokes involving certain parts of the human anatomy also have their appeal. Kids using the dreaded four-letter words with no more restraint than their parents is still something of a novelty in comedies. I could see myself singing along to “Take on Me” by A-ha in in the car with my family looking on in disbelief. What I couldn’t deal with is the constant bickering, like what goes on in “This Is 40.” These people act like they hate each other, and while I get that a lot of families end up like that… it’s just not something I have ever experienced or could ever get used to. There’s a lot to this movie that is actually more sad than funny.

Debbie (Leslie Mann) and Pete (Paul Rudd), whom we first met in 2007’s “Knocked Up,” are both turning 40 and feeling none too good about it. Debbie is in complete denial about exactly what year her birthday falls in, certain that one day she’s going to blink only to find that she’s suddenly 90. Pete has plunged the family into serious financial problems, both by lending money to his father (Albert Brooks) and in managing a record label that is going nowhere. Debbie’s business, a boutique, isn’t helping out either. Actually, it is mysteriously losing money, as in someone who works there is likely stealing it. Early suspicions point to Desi (Megan Fox), who wears expensive-looking outfits and drives a fancy car. At home, the couple find something objectionable in almost everything that comes out of each others’ mouths. Trying to keep their daughters from killing each other (figuratively speaking) is as great a challenge.

I like both Mann and Rudd. However, just as the Incredible Hulk has proven to be more effective with the Avengers than he ever was in his standalone movies, a little bit of Debbie and Pete also goes a long way. They were great as secondary characters in “Knocked Up,” where their strained marriage served as a guide for Allison (Debbie’s sister) and boyfriend Ben in how not to behave in a relationship. Here, their mean-spirited and selfish behavior is like a blunt instrument. Before long, the effect is one of numbness.

No matter what you think of her acting skills, you cannot deny that the camera loves Megan Fox. While this isn’t emphasized to the extent that it was in the first two live-action “Transformers” films, it is no less evident. She isn’t given as much to do here as in those movies (which is saying something), aside from playing up her sexual appeal, but she does that quite well.

The main problem with “This Is 40” is that its plot takes forever to get going. For the better part of its 134-minute running time (a bit longish for a comedy, don’t you think?), the film seems to meander from scene to scene the same way that people meander through life. Maybe that was supposed to be the point, but it didn’t really click with me. Still, it has its good points as well. Despite their characters’ off-putting nature, Rudd and Mann do have excellent on-screen chemistry. Not all the jokes work, but the ones that do work well. The older daughter’s obsession with the TV series “Lost” is amusing, especially for those of us who used to watch the show (for those that did not, it spoils the ending to the series finale). I also liked the dynamic between Debbie and her father, returning to her life after years of no contact. I wish we could have had more scenes with John Lithgow in them, but that would have meant making the film longer than it already is. I loved “Knocked Up,” and I go back and re-watch it whenever I can, but I probably won’t be revisiting “This Is 40” anytime soon. Should I ever become so bitter and terrified about my age, please, somebody please put me out of my misery.

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. It may be longer than it should be, but nonetheless, Apatow’s writing always stings and makes me laugh, even when he seems to be trying too hard for an emotional-cue.

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