This Is 40 (2012) Film Review, a movie directed by Judd Apatow and starring Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Jason Segel, Annie Mumolo, Robert Smigel, Megan Fox, Charlyne Yi, Graham Parker, D.A. Sandoval, Megan Grano, and Mackenzie Aladjem.
These days Judd Apatow’s name is seemingly attached to every project coming out of Hollywood. His ubiquity has caused some to groan but when it comes to comedy there can be no doubt regarding his skill. In Apatow’s latest feature This Is 40, the laughs are present and the actors that he puts in every movie are also there.
More importantly, Apatow does what he does best with This Is 40: he combines just enough sensitivity to make the audience bite, without the permeating stench of rotten, rom-com cheese. Although the idea of people dealing with growing old isn’t entirely original, Apatow sneaks it right under the viewer’s nose and the presentation makes us forget that we’ve probably seen this movie once (or twice) before. It may not top his other work but it certainly exists as a suitable complement.
In This is 40, there is a continuation of the narrative involving Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann’s characters from Apatow’s previous pregnancy/coming of age flick Knocked Up. While Knocked Up surprised us with its brutal honesty and unconventional charm, this spin-off (let’s call a spade a spade) doesn’t quite pack the same punch. Debbie (Mann) is trying to come to terms with the fact that she is turning 40 (or 38 depending on who asks), while taking a long hard look at her marriage with Pete (Rudd), and what the real cause is behind their constant fighting. Although this is the main story, we also get to see the children of Pete and Debbie’s story unfold: adorable Charolette (Iris Apatow) is watching her teen, horomone-fest sister and best friend Sadie (Maude Apatow) slip away.
The fact that Debbie is Sadie and Charolette’s mother off-stage (Mann is married to Apatow and their two kids are Maude and Iris) make for a natural chemistry that is off-the-charts. Rudd’s role is a perfect fit and I’m beginning to wonder what this actor can’t do.
The approach to the film is realistic but not boring and while the “getting old” concept is a little played out (how many more Viagra jokes really need to be made), Apatow fills in the cracks with enough great jokes to make up for it. My only gripe here is that there is perhaps a bit too much adlibbing. I know it is part of Apatow’s directing style but there are a few scenes where it is glaring and the film would have been much better with certain scenes that were tight as opposed to mildly funny.
What stood out most to me was that even though this film takes place in a California suburb (hardly the 99%), the story feels very contemporary and relevant. It also doesn’t try to be a how-to guide on getting through life’s difficult problems, rather it is an opportunity for viewers to step back and laugh at themselves. Pete and Debbie go through many trials (the movie is just a bit over 2 hours) but they learn as well (Apatow paints the entire picture). At age 45 himself, Apatow shows the viewer that getting older doesn’t mean you can’t still be hilarious.