This Is 40 - Written and directed by Judd Apatow, starring Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks, Jason Segel, Megan Fox, John Lithgow, and Chris O'Dowd - Rated R
Judd Apatow has become a comedy juggernaut, though he has only directed four theatrical releases. Many people were lukewarm (including me) to his last effort, Funny People, which was a bit more serious than his previous work. With This Is 40, Apatow is definitely aiming for more comedy than drama, though there are still quite a few “real” moments in the film. This isn’t going to replace Knocked Up or The Forty Year Old Virgin as his funniest film, but fans will most likely be pleased with this lengthy comedy.
This Is 40 is a spin-off from Knocked Up as it follows the married couple from that film, Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), as they deal with aging, money, parenting, and everything else in life. This is a stand-alone film, however. You do not need to watch Knocked Up to appreciate it. In fact, if you don’t pay close attention, you’ll miss the lone reference to the main characters from that previous comedy. That was fine with me because I found the couple to be immensely funny in Knocked Up.
Pete and Debbie basically go through one issue after another in this film, and it is usually handled in a funny, though serious, way. The dialogue and references are all sharp and rapid, and most of the jokes work. Paul Rudd is one of the best comedic actors out there and he continues his winning streak with this film (though I still think his earlier 2012 comedy, Wanderlust, is the funniest film of the year). Leslie Mann has her moments and has great chemistry with Rudd. Her character is also more sympathetic this time around, as she came off as kind of a shrew in Knocked Up. Apatow’s kids (who he has with wife/star Leslie Mann) play the couple’s children, and they do a fine job, rarely drawing attention to the fact that they are only there because their parents made the movie.
The supporting cast is pretty great, including Jason Segel, Megan Fox, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Robert Smigel, and plenty of others. Chris O’Dowd (the cop from Bridesmaids) stood out the most, and Melissa McCarthy had a great scene as a concerned parent. There are some cameos, as well, most notably Graham Parker, an obscure, aging rock star. I honestly had never heard of Graham Parker before this film, and I found it odd how much of the film was devoted to him, although he does have a funny moment at Pete’s studio.
As you can tell from the list of actors, This Is 40 kind of takes the kitchen sink approach and just throws a barrage of funny at you. Most of it worked for me, so I can’t fault it. But it can grow tiresome after two hours. Yes, the same complaint that everyone has about Apatow’s other films is applicable here: it is too long. I suppose Apatow just falls in love with certain scenes and can’t bring himself to cut them, but that’s what the DVD is for. Of course, he’ll probably release an even longer cut when this comes out on DVD. (I get the feeling Apatow won’t be happy until he has released a three-hour comedy.) Two hours plus is really pushing it for a comedy. I understand that he wants to keep the more serious moments that provide the real meat of the film in there, but if he wants to do that, he has to lose a bit. One example, don’t have multiple performances from Graham Parker in your film. Another example, Jason Segel’s personal trainer character was largely pointless. A few laughs will be lost, but so will fifteen minutes.
Overall, This Is 40 is a funny film, and it makes you care about the characters and what happens to them. Is Apatow breaking new ground? Absolutely not. (He even relies on a fevered bike ride at the end of this film á la The Forty Year Old Virgin.) But he doesn’t need to do something new and inventive if the characters are likable and they say more funny things than not. I enjoyed it, and I think most people will, too. You might be checking the time that last half-hour or so, but too much of a good thing isn’t that big of a problem.