Movie Review: This is 40 (2012)
I am admittedly not the biggest fan of Judd Apatow, pioneer of the dreaded dramedy (I’m sure it’s been around a lot longer but he really made it a popular trend). I think the majority of his “classics”, like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, are somewhat overrated. It’s not that they are bad — they are actually quite good; it’s just that I don’t think they are as magnificent as everyone says they are.
This is why it surprises me to say that I loved This is 40, which I think is Apatow’s best effort to date. Part of it might be due to my minor man crush on the affable and always-dependable Paul Rudd, but I also firmly believe it is the most consistently funny and least hit-and-miss of Apatow’s catalogue of films. Or perhaps it’s because, as a fellow husband and parent, I can relate to the jokes better. Whatever it is, I had an absolute blast with this one.
The film’s central characters, married couple Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Apatow’s real-life wife Leslie Mann), are an upper-class family with two young girls, the older one of which appears to have hit puberty. They apparently appeared in Knocked Up and this is supposed to be an offshoot sequel of sorts, but yeah, I don’t recall them either.
Anyway, they appear to have it all but the facade has plenty of cracks in it. They have every reason to be happy but Pete and Debbie are always bickering over the little things, and the children often drive them crazy. Pete, who owns a small record label, is constantly giving money to his dad (Albert Brooks) behind Debbie’s back despite struggling himself, while Debbie, who is in denial over turning 40, suspects an employee at her boutique store, Desi (Megan Fox), is stealing from her.
It sounds like a little suburban drama but This is 40 has a lot of hilarious scenes and nifty touches that are brutally, cringeworthyly honest and absolutely rang true to me. Some of it is exaggerated for effect, though on the whole this was still more subtle than most of Apatow’s other films. Apatow’s best work is usually drawn from experience, and let’s face it, the majority of jokes in this film probably came directly from his personal life.
Like most Apatow films, however, this one is overlong at 133-minutes (100-110 minutes would have been perfect), which is accentuated by a drawn-out third act that doesn’t quite know how to conclude. Not surprisingly, it is when the film ventures into “serious drama” territory that it begins to sag, though thankfully there wasn’t a whole of that throughout the rest of the film.
Paul Rudd continues to be a legend and makes Pete a pretty likable guy too, albeit in a Homer Simpson kind of way at times. Leslie Mann got a bit grating on occasion with her whining, but I like to think it’s more her character than her. And Albert Brooks is awesome. Megan Fox, on the other hand, was unexpectedly adequate. Lots of cameos and small roles from famous names, including Jason Segel as a fitness guru, John Lithgow as Debbie’s dad and Chris O’Dowd as one of Pete’s employees. Melissa McCarthy (the scene stealer from Bridesmaids) also has a small but hilarious role as a mother whose kid bullies Pete and Debbie’s daughter.
I have heard some critics dismiss the film simply because it’s about the problems of “rich white people”, as though that’s some sort of sin. So rich white people can’t have problems? Must all movies be about people who ought to be more miserable because they are not rich or white? Give me a break.
In the end, though it is far from perfect, This is 40 is by far my favourite Judd Apatow movie to date and quite possibly my favourite comedy of 2012.
4.5 stars out of 5