This is 40
Release Date: December 21, 2012
Director: Judd Apatow
Writer: Judd Apatow
Stars: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann and Jason Segel
MPAA Rating: R
With an impressive string of films he’s directed like The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Funny People (and countless other films he’s produced), Judd Apatow is almost single-handedly responsible for the resurgence of adult-oriented R-rated comedies.
In doing so, Apatow has essentially created his own genre. He tends to work with the same actors over and over again and he allows those actors to improvise during takes. His films feature a lot of pop culture references and offensive language. There are usually one or two over-the-top gross out scenes and a scene or two with comical drug use. And generally, Apatow’s films tend to feel overly long and struggle to maintain a steady pace. At times they feel more like a collection of funny scenes and ideas than a cohesive film. Most of his movies are incredibly funny, but feel like they could benefit from stronger editing.
In some ways, This is 40 feels like the most Apatowy of Judd Apatow films. For starters, the bulk of the cast is comprised of Apatow’s actual family. The film features Apatow’s real-life wife Leslie Mann playing matriarch Debbie and his real-life kids Maude Apatow and Iris Apatow playing the children in the film, Sadia and Charlotte. Paul Rudd plays the patriarch Pete, but it doesn’t take much of a leap to see him as a Judd Apatow surrogate.
In addition to his nepotism in the casting and the autobiographical nature of the subject matter, This is 40 feels quintessentially Apatow in its occasional pacing problems, use of familiar faces (like Jason Segel, Chris O’Dowd, Melissa McCarthy and Lena Dunham) and the inclusion of the type of drug, gross out and pop culture jokes you’ve come to expect. And yet, it’s a really entertaining and incredibly funny film that stands on its own.
This is 40 is a spinoff from Knocked Up, Apatow’s 2007 film. Knocked Up centered around Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl), who had a one night stand with Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) that resulted in a pregnancy. In that film, Alison was living in Debbie and Pete’s pool house. Rudd and Mann were supporting actors in that film, offering mostly comic relief and a glimpse of what Alison and Ben had in store if they decided to make a go of their unexpected relationship.
Heigl and Rogen do not appear in this film. Instead, it focuses on Debbie and Pete as they both turn 40. Debbie is in denial. She refuses to have a co-birthday party with Pete, even though their 40ths are only days apart, and instead decides to tell everyone she is turning 37.
Wrestling with her angst over aging, Debbie attempts to transform the way the family eats and how much time they spend online. She also tries to quit smoking, something she does in secret. Likewise, she tries to get Pete to stop sneaking cupcakes. The two also argue constantly with each other, over these proposed changes and every other aspect of their lives, causing them to question if they would have stayed together if they never had children.
Their extended family causes them grief as well. In addition to their bickering children, both of their fathers cause them a considerable amount of stress. Pete’s father Larry (Albert Brooks) is bleeding Pete dry to pay for the young children he had in his second marriage. Debbie’s father Oliver (John Lithgow) is trying to find a way to be a part of her life after leaving her, her mother and Alison when she was young.
Their professional lives are just as stressful. Pete is trying to launch a boutique record label by releasing Graham Parker’s first new album in 20 years. (Parker plays himself in the film.) And Debbie is trying to figure out which one of the two employees at her clothing store has stolen thousands of dollars from her.
Some of these storylines work better than other. As a whole, they give Pete and Debbie a lot to stress out over and they give Apatow a variety of characters and scenes to jump around to. At times the film feels very disjointed as it skips from one storyline to the next. But, with a few exceptions, none of these scenes really overstay their welcome.
If you are looking for Apatow to break out some new tricks, you’ll be sorely disappointed. He has clearly found a formula that works for him and shows no signs of tampering with it. But the reason Apatow sticks to that formula is because it works.
If you’ve been a fan of his previous films, you’ll enjoy This is 40 as well. Since the film so closely mirrors Apatow’s real life, all of the emotional notes seem genuine and these characters feel very real. It’s also incredibly funny. So while you won’t see a reinvented wheel, you will see one of Judd Apatow’s best films to date.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his reviews, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.