SYNOPSIS: Pete and Debbie reach their 40th birthdays which occur a week apart. As they reach this milestone in their lives, they realize that their lives aren't as perfect as they thought they would be.
REVIEW: Writer/director Judd Apatow hit the big screen running with the 2005 The 40 Year Old Virgin and his 2007 follow-up Knocked Up. He has since created funny situations with his writing and with direction of short films. Now, Apatow returns with his self-proclaimed "sort-of" sequel to Knocked Up in the form of a peek into the continued lives of Pete, Debbie, and their two slightly older kids in This Is 40.Pete (Paul Rudd, Wanderlust) and Debbie (Leslie Mann, The Change-Up) are both approaching their 40th birthdays that take place a week apart. Debbie runs a fashion boutique and Pete had quit his job as a Sony executive to start his own record label.
As Debbie pronounces that she is turning 38 years old again, Pete can't understand why his beautiful wife is so concerned about it. They deal with the angst of raising a budding teenager Sadie (Maude Apatow, Funny People) and younger sister Charlotte (Iris Apatow, Funny People), while dealing with financial worries at both of their businesses.
As the birthday party looms closer, the family dynamic worsens as teenage Facebook threads, mooching father Larry (Albert Brooks, Drive), absentee father Oliver (John Lithgow, The Campaign), financial worries, and a fracturing marriage all add to the dread of actually turning 40.
This is 40 is Judd Apatow's way of immortalizing the sometimes bitter milestone of venturing into the start of the fifth decade of one's journey in life. Instead of creating brand new characters, Apatow revisits old friends we already have history with. Pete and Debbie were there for Ben Stone (Seth Rogen, For a Good Time, Call...) and Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl, One for the Money) when their initial drunk encounter resulted in an unexpected pregnancy and birth.
Now, a few years later, we return to Pete and Debbie's home to watch both start a spiraled descent into a form of mid-life crisis as they both reach 40.
Apatow was smart to self-promote This is 40 as of the 'sort-of' sequel to Knocked Up. This new film is not as sophomoric humorous as Rogen's blundering and Heigl's stammering in the face of an unexpected birth. But if you watched Pete and Debbie in Knocked Up, their lives take on a similar tone in this return to their lives.
This comedy is more dramatic than comedic, but still has a few moments that you will snicker or chuckle at. Heavyweight comedian Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) comes to bat the humor out of the park as a disgruntled schoolboy mother who confronts both Pete and Debbie with hilarious results. Stay for the end credit blooper reel of a principal/parent conference that is the actual highlight of the film.
There are other sequences meant to be funny, but they don't live up to what Apatow has created on screen in the past. Several subplot lines seem unnecessary and only serve as fodder for possible hit-and-miss laughs. Debbie's employees Desi (Megan Fox, Jonah Hex) and Jodi (Charlyne Yi, Semi-Pro) are at the center of misplaced money at Debbie's store. Pete's Unfiltered Records employee Ronnie (Chris O'Dowd, Bridesmaids) seems unable or unwilling to market Pete's passion artist Graham Parker, at the risk of the label going under.
Jason Segel (The Five-Year Engagement), playing trainer/spiritual guide/life coach Jason, tightens Debbie's buns and offers a few silly lines and smirks but didn't seem crucial to the story.
A lot of things are happening, as is the case in most of our lives, but most don't seem necessary to an audience's review. Boil down some of that 134 minutes and Apatow may have had a quicker paced and tighter film.
As Apatow moves on to more personally important, more comedic/dramatic fare, he may be leaving behind that part of his audience fan base that thrived on his sophomoric palette of humor. Sure, there are a few fart jokes, potty humor, a close inspection of a planetary constellation orbiting around Paul Rudd's bottom, and everything that Melissa McCarthy pulls from her arsenal. But as the message of parental regrets, hormonal teenagers, financial uncertainty, and the fears of facing the future takes center stage, the drama of real life didn't seem as funny as it used to be.
Apatow is known for clever, witty, and funny looks at life's situations. From middle-aged virgins to expecting fathers, from agents turned hairdressers to pot smokers at the wrong place at the wrong time, Apatow ramps up the absurdity of most situations.
With vulgarity, potty humor, or drug and sexual references, he still captures and relays a tender message of hope. This time, his film is more on point and dramatic, sometimes missing the opportunity to capitalize further on the silly. Unhappy spouses, risk of financial ruin, and the angst of raising children in a preservative-filled digital age needs a bigger injection of laughs.
This is 40 is a worthwhile movie in the sense that it takes a slice of 'real life' and deals with relationships and responsibilities across several generations. There could have been less clutter to make the film better. There could have been lighter tones to make it better. You will enjoy it if you know what you should prepare for.
★ ★ 1/2 out of 5 | Rental
Rated: R Pervasive language, crude humor, sexual content and some drug use.
Release Date: December 21, 2012
Runtime: 2 hours 14 minutes
Director: Judd Apatow
Writers: Judd Apatow
Cast: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Jason Segel, Robert Smigel, Megan Fox, Graham Parker, John Lithgow, Albert Brooks