This is 40 (Rated R) 4 Stars
Director Judd Apatow might be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Increasingly, his films make me want to have a meal of raw cookie dough sprinkled with Prozac, served with a side of cheap liquor. This is 40 (134 minutes) might have likeable and even realistic characters, but he lost some nuance in his attempt to transition to a more mature story.
As supporting characters in Knocked Up, Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) served as a cautionary tale for Ben (Seth Rogen) and Alison (Katherine Heigl). In a stand-alone film we learn far more about them then we ever wanted to. For example, apparently (big surprise) they both have issues with their parents. Pete’s Dad (Albert Brooks) is remarried and mooches off Pete to support his stay-at-home wife and trip-lets (conceived through modern medicine). Debbie’s Dad (Jon Lithgow) has reentered her life after a prolonged absence, bring-ing her abandonment and control issues screaming to the surface just as her marriage is at a crisis point.
It seems that Pete, in a bit of character consistency, is secretly a jerk. As pleasant and easy going as he can be, he lies all the time. And they’re huge lies that are destined to be found out, like the impending ruin of his business. Meanwhile, Debbie (who is by far the more sympathetic of the two) is trying to make their marriage work even in the face of her husband’s downright disinterest and petulance. He’s not happy but he is determined to fake it until the problem goes away. She’s not happy, but she can’t get it through to her husband that she is running out of things to try, which means he is running out of chances to meet her halfway. Yes, it’s supposed to be a comedy. I think.
It is the approximately 3 million subplots that drag the film down the most. First, Debbie has a business now. It is some kind of boutique, and she employs Jodi (Charlyne Yi from Knocked Up) and Desi (Megan Fox, Ugh.). She thinks one of them is stealing and can’t figure out whom. Second, their two kids Charlotte and Sadie (Iris and Maude Apatow) fight a lot. Both subplots were utterly boring and could have easily been trimmed. Don’t work with family Apatow. It’s too hard to cut their crap scenes.
Knocked Up and The Forty Year Old Virgin are some of the funniest modern comedies I’ve seen. There is a certain goofy sweetness to the leads in those pics. They may be long, but they are never bloated. Here, however, the plot does not justify the length. This is mostly a series of vignettes that lack an over-arching narrative. Like any other couple, sometimes they are happy and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they like their kids and sometimes they don’t. They are children of divorce and their respective fathers each started a second family, full of younger half-siblings that make for awkward get-togethers. Honestly, this comes off like a failed sitcom that got turned into a movie.
Overall the strengths of the film balance the weaknesses. This is not going down in history as his best work, but I think it will age well. The central theme of the mid-life couple crisis is relat-able; it’s the trimmings that take away. I mean, I find it hard to muster any real sympathy for the characters when I am reminded that they are two relatively wealthy and attractive people in danger of aging and becoming slightly less wealthy. Oh no! Their daughter dropped an F-Bomb! Family crisis! Really, they fight and make up so often during the course of the movie, when we get to the kiss-and-make-up finale it is just one more up destined to roll down. This results in a lack of catharsis and a sense that five minutes after the credits rolled they headed to divorce court. But yes, there are some outtakes after the movie. Enjoy.
Now showing at Wynnsong 7, Carmike 12 and Carmike Market Fair 15.