While “Knocked Up” established Seth Rogan and Katherine Heigl as major movie stars, it was Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd that stole the entire show. Rogan and Heigl’s characters are nowhere to be found in the sort-of sequel to “Knocked Up.” Rather, “This is 40” passes the torch over to Mann’s Debbie and Rudd’s Pete as they both reach the dreaded middle-aged milestone.
The latest comedy from writer/director Judd Apatow may be imperfect in terms of pacing. Thanks to the unparallelled chemistry between Mann and Rudd though, the picture eventually evens out into something often funny and believable.
Debbie has just turned 40 although she is telling everyone she is 38. Pete meanwhile is much more content with the fact that he will be 40 within the next couple weeks. Their marriage has hit a slump as Pete now requires Viagra to be intimate and Debbie can’t stop smoking. It doesn’t help that the entire family is engulfed in their iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks. This is probably the closest any film has come to representing the dominating effect of Apple projects, especially on youths. Fifteen years ago it might have seemed outlandish to observe a child with a cell phone. Now it’s routine to see an 8-year-old using the talking monkey app on her iPhone.
“This is 40” provides some memorable supporting work from Albert Brooks as Pete’s dad, who has recently procreated triplets with his new wife. Apatow and Mann’s real life daughters, Maude and Iris, shine as the bratty, constantly feuding daughters of Pete and Debbie. Even Megan Fox manages to turn out a funny performance as a sexy employee that works at Debbie’s clothing store. The standout has got to be the always-hilarious Melissa McCarthy in a cameo as a mother Debbie and Pete royally tick off. Be sure to stick around after the end credits as McCarthy goes all out in what was likely an entirely improved outtake.
When “This is 40” is good, it’s really good. But at two hours and fifteen minutes, the film admittedly starts to wear out its welcome. Apatow suffered from the same quandary in “Funny People,” a comedy that might have been an instant classic had it been trimmed down by an hour. “This is 40” has one too many needless subplots regarding stolen money at Debbie’s store, a record deal with Graham Parker, and Debbie reconnecting with her estranged father played by John Lithgow. What makes or breaks a film such as this though is the main plot concerning our leads. Thankfully, a majority of the material between Debbie and Pete is nothing short of gold.
Debbie and Pete’s relationship can range from truthfully hilarious to truthfully uncomfortable. Yet, their bond always feels authentic and any middle-aged married couple can identify with their dilemmas. This was obviously an extremely personal film for Apatow to make with his entire family in major roles. It wouldn’t at all be surprising if most of these events were taken right out of the 45-year-old director’s own life as a husband and father. His screenplay, along with the performances from Mann and Rudd, shape “This is 40” into an honest movie about what it means to be committed to your spouse for better and for worse.
It should be noted however that you might want to hold off on seeing “This is 40” if you’re currently getting caught up on “Lost.” The ending is revealed here and it’d be a travesty for this movie to spoil it for you.
Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past seven years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com
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