This Is 40
Directed by Judd Apatow
Written by Judd Apatow
Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, John Lithgow, Megan Fox, Albert Brooks Universal Pictures
Rated R | 134 minutes
Release Date: December 21st, 2012
In Judd Apatow‘s latest film, This Is 40, the writer/director revisits characters he created in 2007’s Knocked Up and examines the foibles of marriage.
Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) are a married couple in their 40s with children (Mann’s real-life daughters, Maude and Iris Apatow) under pressure, both economic and emotional.
This sort-of sequel to Knocked Up is Apatow’s first directorial effort since 2009’s Funny People. The filmmaker has been busy producing films like Get Him to the Greek, Bridesmaids, and The Five-Year Engagement – movies that fulfill the director’s artistic mission to blend requisite adult humor and layers of emotional depth all while exploring immaturity and characters who are forced to accept the curveballs life throws at them.
With The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Steve Carell’s character is a man who, in many ways, is still a boy. In Knocked Up, Seth Rogen’s man-child is a stoner who devotes most of his time to getting drunk, getting high, and building an online pornography empire, while Funny People‘s Adam Sandler plays a comedian diagnosed with cancer. Apatow writes childish, imperfect characters so he can tell them to ‘grow up’ – and This Is 40 is no different.
A better title for this movie would have been Insufferable People, a sort-of sequel to Funny People – as the characters that occupy the writer/director’s latest film are adolescent, selfish, unrealistically attractive people who manage to be extremely funny and depressing all at the same time.
Maybe Apatow is simply writing what he knows. Perhaps this is just the result of having an extremely wealthy, successful Hollywood filmmaker try to tell us a story about real people. While we can all relate with relationships and family issues, it’s hard to connect to characters who drive BMWs and own their own record label, hobnobbing with the likes of Billy Joe Armstrong from Green Day and Ryan Adams.
At one point in the film, Pete’s accountant (Michael Ian Black) points out that Pete has loaned his father (Albert Brooks) $80,000 over the past couple of years – which he hasn’t paid back. Who can afford to loan someone $80,000!?! Who exactly is Apatow making films for – an audience dying to escape the burdens of the outside world, or Hollywood’s one percent – terminally rich, talented, altogether beautiful people who crumble under the pressure of dealing with life’s most basic responsibilities?
This Is 40 is filled with the kind of random, absurd humor you’ve come to expect from Apatow – Farts, Boners, Hemorrhoids, Marijuana Cookies, White People Dancing To Nicki Minaj – complete with a bizarre, supercilious subplot where Sadie (Maude Apatow) is obsessed with ABC’s Lost. Apatow singles out the television show and reveals bits from the series finale on Sadie’s iPad, leaving me to wonder if he’s a genuine fan of the series or if he’s making a joke out of it.
Megan Fox is typecast as Desi, one of Debbie’s employees. Oh, that’s right, I forgot to mention – in addition to Paul Rudd’s character owning a record label, Debbie owns a fashion boutique – which has seemingly misplaced $12,000. Desi, the young and devastatingly gorgeous employee is accused of stealing – but no one really seems to care (including the audience). Everyone shrugs at the idea of $12,000 being stolen – like the vending machine ate your dollar.
Fox’s Desi is an escort disguised as a store clerk – a loose woman who lives an exotic lifestyle thanks to her good looks. What’s Apatow trying to say here? That your looks will only last for so long? That it’s ok to be young and have a good time (with lots of men) so long as you settle down eventually? Desi is a one-dimensional, unrealistic character – she’s the product of fetishist filmmaking but, then again, maybe she’s a fair representation of people that inhabit the shiny plastic world of Hollywood that Apatow has grown accustomed to?
It’s just a shame that Megan Fox is seen as nothing more than a piece of meat to most filmmakers. Here she’s put on display and lingered over in ways that would make Michael Bay blush. Gratuitous scenes of Fox in short skirts, bikinis, her underwear – including one scene where Leslie Mann fondles her breasts and points out how perfect and perky they are.
Fox is a talented comedic actress – if you haven’t seen Jennifer’s Body, she delivers a hilariously wicked performance – it’s just a shame she’s been pigeonholed as an actress (and a human being, honestly) as a hyper-sexualized, shallow mean girl.
The rest of the cast includes Knocked-Up characters Jason (Jason Segel) and Jodi (Charlyne Yi) and Bridesmaids alums Melissa McBride and Chris O’Dowd – an obvious attempt for the writer/director to cash in on the success of Paul Feig’s wonderful, truly heartfelt and humorous 2011 film.
While funny at times, This Is 40 is overindulgent, pretentious, and exhausting – a movie filled with deplorable, unbelievable characters in a “we used to be cool but now we’re married with kids” story we’ve seen countless times.
I’m glad Apatow has reached a level of success where no one can tell him no – where he can release a bloated 134-minute film with no concern for how honest or relatable it is – but there’s something to be said for precision and streamlined storytelling, which This Is 40 sadly lacks.
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