Don’t dis Judd Apatow. The man has only made a total of four movies and already he has established himself firmly as one of the most talented comedic directors of the decade. After making an enormous name for himself and star Steve Carell in the 2005 hit comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Apatow then went on to write and direct the even better Knocked Up, which I found to be an unflinchingly realistic and no holds barred look at an entirely real situation that is sometimes brushed over in a lot of movies in the genre. Then in 2009 he wrote and directed Funny People, which is perhaps the film that took the hardest blow in terms of critical reception, but still remains to be my personal favorite of all Apatow’s films, as I found that it was a sweet and sentimental blend of comedy and drama. Everybody, including myself, who loved Knocked Up, remembers the hilarious couple, played by the great Paul Rudd and director Judd Apatow’s wife, Leslie Mann. What with their constant bickering and realistic lifestyle qualities, which is largely credited to screenwriter, Apatow himself, they were certainly a charm to watch on screen. Well, that was then. And even after watching Knocked Up again and finding the characters to still hold up in being absolutely hilarious, it kills me to say that This Is 40, Apatow’s latest dramedy that focuses on the life of Mann and Rudd, is a huge letdown.
Perhaps one of the biggest problems with this film is that it really has no point. It really doesn’t ever reach a climax or a point. It’s almost just a camera following a married couple, played by great talents, all day and capturing their annoying fights and bursts of unnecessary screams. It all becomes a bit annoying. That being said, though, this certainly isn’t one of the worst movies of the year, and even though it is the most disappointing of Apatow’s work, it is still thoroughly enjoyable with lots of fun to be had. The opening few minutes of the movie is an impeccably written conversation between Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann). It was a fantastic opening conversation. However, as the film goes on, some scenes feel out of place and a lot of scenes, which basically just consist of the family having conversations that escalate into chaotic situations, seem to just go on way too long. Some of the camera shots cut away too quickly during these scenes and made me feel a strong sense of unnaturalness. It just felt a little rocky. However, within those overlong scenes lie the sure writing of Judd Apatow, which is so engaging and fun to work with. Leave it to him to make a pointless “life with the family” drama into an scarily realistic and ultimately enjoyable writing fest. I had a blast listening to some of the conversations between characters that Judd wrote out, including an amazing argument centering around Lost vs. Mad Men. I loved it. It’s all signature Apatow.
While most of the credit goes to Apatow himself, it cannot be ignored the amount of fun had by the insane cast, consisting of a hilarious Paul Rudd, who still remains to be one of my favorite comedic actors; Leslie Mann, Apatow’s wife, who shows no sense of insecurity working onscreen with Rudd, sparking terrific chemistry with him; a surprising pop up by Albert Brooks, which quickly became one of the best parts of the movie for me; and Melissa McCarthy, who, while not given much screen time, proved herself the funniest aspect of this entire movie, especially during a scene with our married couple and a high school principal. It was also nice to see Jason Segal’s character from Knocked Up in this, even though it was a bit disappointing that Seth Rogan and Katherine Heigl didn’t make a cameo appearance, and John Lithgow did fine work in the film as well. Apatow and Mann’s real life children play Rudd and Mann’s children in this movie, and even though I enjoyed watching the younger of the two, the older got on my nerves really quick, and she struck nowhere to being a talented actress. To no one’s surprise, I’m sure, Megan Foxx is just average in this movie (she got fired by Michael Bay, for God’s sake!), even though she may be undeniably delicious to look at, which she definitely is here. Also, Charlyne Yi’s Jodi from Knocked Up returns and is absolutely irritating, bringing the movie way down for me.
Many people have thought Judd Apatow’s films to be too long, given that they are each over two hours in length. And even from an Apatow fan who loved Funny People, which was 146 minutes in length, I must say that at just 133 minutes, This Is 40 is way overlong. Maybe it’s just the long scenes and scrappy cuts that made me just want it to end, but by the end of it I felt relieved that it was finally over.
There is a lot of fun to be had here in This Is 40, whether it is the lively writing, the smashing cast, or some of the hilarious scenes scattered throughout, including a vacation scene that had me almost dropping out of the chair because I was laughing so hard. Despite all that, this is a pointless movie that takes characters that were great in their supporting role in a more substantial film and shifts them front and center in a film that is about the same running time. It feels bloated, overlong, weak, and unsatisfying. This is the most disappointing film of Judd Apatow’s career, and it is one of the major let downs of the entire year.
Run Time: 133 mins
Rated: R for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language, and some drug material
Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks, Megan Foxx, Melissa McCarthy, Jason Segal, and John Lithgow
Written and Directed by Judd Apatow