If you’re going along to see This Is 40 after seeing adverts declaring that it’s “the sort-of sequel to Knocked Up” then you may be in for a bit of a disappointment. Let me clarify something immediately. This Is 40 is not a comedy. There are one or two funny moments (thank you Melissa McCarthy for at least making me laugh ONCE) but it’s not a comedy. If Judd Apatow tries to tell everyone different or if he threatens to sue me for labelling his latest cinematic slice of nepotism as a drama then I’ll change my wording slightly to say This Is 40 is not a good comedy. Of course, he wouldn’t bother picking a fight with someone as insignificant as me. He probably can’t even see me over the piles of money that keep rolling in from the Apatow brand.
I’m trying to be a bit funny to cover up my strange feeling of anger for this movie. Going into it and not expecting a comedy is all well and good, but finding out that it’s nothing more than a self-pitying look at tough times for people who don’t seem to know what tough times are . . . . . . . well that just irks me no end.
Leslie Mann (AKA Mrs. Apatow) and Paul Rudd are once again playing, respectively, Debbie and Pete, the married couple who have two kids named Sadie (played by one of Judd Apatow’s daughters) and Charlotte (played by Judd Apatow’s OTHER daughter). Debbie and Pete are in trouble because they’re hitting the big four-oh, neither of their two businesses are performing as well as they’d like them to and they may even end up having to sell their house to get a different house. Oh, and Pete has been helping out his father (Albert Brooks) financially, Debbie has been getting lessons with her personal trainer (Jason Segel) and there are other things that happen that I can’t even bring myself to write down because recapping the bare bones of the plot has brought up that feeling of anger again.
Now I’m not saying that people with money don’t have their problems too. I’m not saying that stress and worry and financial uncertainty should remain the sole property of the lower classes, but I will say that if you and your husband BOTH have your own business then things aren’t that bad yet, if you go to classes with a personal trainer then things aren’t that bad yet, if you have numerous laptops and smartphones and a nice car and many other shiny accessories that make life all the sweeter . . . . . . . . . things aren’t that bad yet. So, bearing that in mind, when a movie focuses on a couple with that lifestyle and then starts to develop the central storyline into something that’s supposed to make you feel worried and sorry for them that just isn’t going to work.
That might be my own prejudice or others may feel the same way, I’ll only find out when people agree or disagree with me. Personally, if it doesn’t work as a comedy and almost completely fails as a drama then I just don’t know what purpose it serves.
The poor cast are just stuck there, trying their hardest. Paul Rudd is always likable and, despite my moaning about nepotism, I also quite like Leslie Mann a lot of the time (hell, I’ll admit that the mini-Apatow girls – AKA The Apatettes? – are also pretty good). If the movie didn’t feel so fatally flawed in a number of key areas then their performances would have been more enjoyable. Albert Brooks is stuck with an annoying character, but at least John Lithgow gets to have one great moment that shows how good the movie might have been if Apatow had moved away from the financial worries and simply gone for more emotional content. Megan Fox is fun, Charlyne Yi isn’t and Chris O’Dowd places himself in the middle ground. Melissa McCarthy, however, is the one person who might make you laugh as I did, and I thank her again for that.
I actually like most of Apatow’s work. I enjoyed his earlier, more straightforward, comedies and I liked the blend that made Funny People harder to pigeonhole, but maybe he should try something now that will freshen up his output. Working with different people, working with different genres (or even just not trying to mix the comedy and drama together), maybe even putting a film out there that comes in at a brisk 90 minutes. I don’t know what the solution is, but I know that there’s a problem.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: JUDD APATOW
STARS: LESLIE MANN, PAUL RUDD, MAUDE APATOW, IRIS APATOW, JASON SEGEL, MEGAN FOX, CHARLYNE YI, CHRIS O’DOWD, ALBERT BROOKS, JOHN LITHGOW, MELISSA MCCARTHY
RUNTIME: 134 MINS APPROX