For some reason, there’s an emoticon of a panda doing push-ups.
Oh Judd. Judd, Judd, Judd. What happened, man? In 2005, you gave us The 40-Year-Old Virgin, easily one of the funniest and most charming films of the last decade. Then you followed that up two years later with Knocked Up, yet another funny and charming piece of filmmaking with quite a bit of character development and depth. And something truly original.
I still haven’t seen Funny People, so I will withhold judgment on that one until I get the chance to watch it. But This is 40 was, simply stated, a bit of a disappointment. Though marketed as a comedy, This is 40 just isn’t very funny. It’s quite sad, really. Sure, there are moments that caused me to laugh and others that made me smile, smirk, or chuckle, but if this is truly what 40 years old is going to be like, then count me out.
This is 40 is centered around the lives of Knocked Up‘s Pete and Debbie. The couple have two kids — one daughter who just hit puberty and another of elementary school age — and are turning 40 years old, that age where you are no longer young and everything seems to be changing as you begin to pass the hill’s peak. Pete (Paul Rudd) runs a struggling vintage record company, and Debbie (Leslie Mann) owns a chic retail boutique with employee issues. Unfortunately, their issues don’t end there.
Pete has been taking Viagra for 2 years to have sex with his wife. He spends loads of time on the toilet (no pun intended) pretending to pinch one off while playing Scrabble and Bejeweled. Pete’s father Larry (Albert Brooks) guilts him into providing him with large sums of money to take care of his new wife and a set of triplets. Pete wants nothing more than to eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants without his wife bitching at him for it. Oh, and he gets a hemorrhoid.
Debbie dislikes that her body is beginning to sag in places that it used to be tight. Her fashion store has been cheated of $12,000 by one of its employees. She spends time making lists of things to do to make herself and her husband and family happy, but never seems able to put forth the effort to do so. She has lunch with her biological father Oliver (John Lithgow), a spinal surgeon, once every year but he never remembers to call her on her birthday.
The pair are looking at selling their fine home to pay off their debts and secure money for their family. And to top it off, they have a devil of a newly pubescent daughter Sadie (Maude Apatow) and a younger daughter Charlotte (Iris Apatow) who can be sweet but can also be quite annoying, as all young children can be.
Though charming at times, This is 40 contains too few laughs, too much unnecessary content, and frankly, it is too depressing to even be considered a true comedy. As with all Apatow productions, This is 40 has its fair share of ridiculous situations, events that would likely never happen outside of the cinematic universe. But while films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin andKnocked Up hone those in and craft a solid story and even better laughs around them, This is 40 throws them on a canvas, one after another, hoping something sticks to keep the audience interested. But nothing sticks. It all slides off, leaving us with nothing more than a blank slate on which to watch the next unbearable situation occur.
Oy, I have certainly bashed this film quite a bit thus far. I should mention, though, that This is 40 isn’t a total loss. Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, and Albert Brooks are all great in their roles, Mann and Brooks in particular, and the funniest moments in the film seem to occur when Rudd and Brooks share the screen as father and son. And This is 40 develops its most compassionate moments around matriarch Deb, meaning Mann is given the opportunity to show off her chops as well, both dramatically and comedically. Better yet, Jason Segel reprises his role as, er, Jason from Knocked Up. He serves as Deb’s personal trainer in the film, and provides some true charm to a film that really needed more. And at least Megan Fox’s role, as one of Deb’s employees, wasn’t a complete throwaway.
One thing I should ask here, on the topic of characters and actors: Can we please stop putting Melissa McCarthy in movies and pretending she is a riot? It was funny in Bridesmaids for the most part, but it just isn’t here. She has a small role in the film, as the mother of a boy who goes to school with Pete and Deb’s daughter Sadie and is mean to her via text messages and internet chats. Pete and Deb, in attempt to defend their daughter, are quite mean to the boy. So what does McCarthy’s character do in return? Hurl a bunch of improvised insults at them, and the principal too, using her typical shtick of aggressively yelling obscenities mixed with other ludicrous verbiage. It’s gotten very old, very fast.
The biggest downside of the acting though, really comes from Apatow’s own children, Maude and Iris. At times, Maude plays the bratty Sadie very well, showcasing the highs and lows of early puberty. But most of the time, she is downright unlikable. She isn’t just a brat; she is, as her character would say, a “B.” Most of her time on screen is spent yelling at and whining to her parents and throwing tantrums. And though Iris’s character, Charlotte, is far more subdued, there are times where you can tell she is trying to act or reading off a cue card or working to remember a line. None of it seems genuine.
Overall, the characters Apatow presents are just hard to relate to. Both Pete and Deb are entrepreneurs. They both drive very nice cars. Their daughters have various iDevices and complain about losing the WiFi or not getting to watch “Lost.” They own a sprawling backyard and a pool. And a very nice house with a very nice master bedroom. How many people in middle class America can relate to any of these characters? Sure, some of it is true at times, but most of it is overdone for dramatic effect.
At the end of the day, This is 40 just doesn’t really work for me. There are scenes I very much enjoyed, and some that made me laugh, but there is just too much here. Too much to dislike. Too many unnecessary story points. Most of all, there are too many minutes to sit through. I read that a few reviewers said the biggest problem with This is 40 is that it is 40 minutes too long.
They were right.