This is 40

© 2012 Ray Wong

We can always count on Judd Apatow, the guy who gave us The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, for a good laugh. But Mr. Apatow's racy comedies are always more than just being raunchy. In fact, I can tell that This is 40 is the most personal movie he's made so far.

Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) are a happily married couple with two young daughters living in Los Angeles. Both of them are turning 40, within a week, and both of them are trying to cope with it. Debbie's main concerns are her aging body, her slowly slipping happiness, and her marital life. Pete's main concerns are his flaccid career as a music label owner, his boring family life, and his libido. Rather typical, mundane "white middle-class" problems, right? But everything seems to escalate as their respective birthdays approach.

They argue more and more, often over tiny, mundane things. Debbie believes that Pete is not attracted to her anymore, and Pete is so afraid of Debbie's judgment that he's hiding his problems from her. A lot of tension starts to build between them. Fortunately, to celebrate Debbie's birthday, they are able to take a short break away from it all and rekindle some of the love and magic between them. But as soon as they return home, reality hits even harder.

As Pete's business continues to falter and he gets more and more distracted by his problems, Debbie becomes more and more depressed about herself and her family. They are both under a lot of pressure but they don't seem to be able to communicate and connect and work it all out. Then they decide to blame everything on their children and respective fathers (Albert Brooks and John Lithgow).

Paul Rudd (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) has that market of affable guy-next-door type cornered. As the family man who is facing his mid-life crisis, Rudd is his usual charming, goofy self with a nice dose of snark and indifference to make him a jerk, too. There's a fine line between sympathetic and unlikable, and Rudd traverses that line rather skillfully. Leslie Mann (The Change-Up) can be whiny sometimes, but she does her best here as she tackles a complex character who is rather disillusioned about how her life turns out.

It's interesting that Apatow has cast Maude and Iris Apatow, the real-life daughters of Leslie Mann and his, as Pete's and Debbie's daughters. It clearly is a family affair -- if only Judd Apatow would play Pete instead of Paul Rudd.  The girls are rather good as the slightly spoiled but mostly responsible daughters. To complete the family picture, Albert Brooks (Drive) and John Lithgow (New Year's Eve) play Pete's and Debbie's paternal units respectively, having done their respectable job portraying these irritating and unlikable characters.

The cast also includes Jason Segel (The Five-Year Engagement), Megan Fox (Friends with Kids), Chris O'Dowd (My Sister's Sister) and Charlyne Yi (All About Steve) in small supporting roles.

Writer-director Judd Apatow's signature style is evident in this production, right from the very first scene. There's no shortage of raunch and adult situations in his comedies. The fact that his wife and children play the wife and children of Pete makes me wonder if the story is highly autobiographical. In a way, This is 40 is very personal in nature, filled to the brim with everyday situations, mundane details and anecdotal episodes of life. And in a way, this is Apatow's most accessible, yet "mundane" offering so far.

The dialogue is sharp and witty and funny, of course, and many moments will make us chuckle. Still, because the movie covers so much "everyday materials" that sometimes it feels tedious and exhausting. Parents, however, may get a kick out of the situations and relate -- having to deal with our children and parents, while contemplating what life is about and how to be happy in the confine of our responsibilities and desires. Apatow tackles many deep and broad themes here. Sometimes he succeeded. Sometimes he failed.

As a comedy, there is no shortage of laughs and uncomfortably funny situations. As a drama, there are certainly deep themes and serious topics. As a combination of both, at times the movie drags and becomes very unfocused, especially with a slew of supporting characters that don't necessarily add to the plot. Things become muddled, before Apatow steers the ship clear again and delivers a rather heartfelt, if a bit too simplistic, ending.

This is the second time that Judd Apatow tackles the question of being 40. It seems like a rather significant point in his own life. The result is something personal, funny, insightful but also unfocused and uneven.

Stars: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Jason Segel, Megan Fox, Chris O'Dowd, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow
Director: Judd Apatow
Writer: Judd Apatow
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating:  R for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material
Running Time: 134 minutes 


Script - 7
Performance - 7
Direction - 7
Cinematography - 7
Music/Sound - 7
Editing - 7
Production - 7

Total - 7.0 out of 10.0 

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

Good review. Not perfect, or hilarious for that matter, but still honest in it's raw look at marriage and getting older and one of Apatow's most mature, pieces of work so far.