It’s who you know. And if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
In his fourth directorial endeavor, “This Is 40,” director Judd Apatow recycles a few characters from his earlier film “Knocked Up.” “This Is 40” is a “Knocked Up” sequel. It wasn’t broken and he didn’t fix it—and it works just fine.
It’s also all about who Apatow knows. Lead actress Leslie Mann is his real-life wife, and the daughters of her character Debbie are her and Apatow’s real-life kids. Paul Rudd and Jason Segel are solid members of Apatow’s repertory company of recyclable actors.
“This Is 40” is an amusing film that points out the fact that people tend to muddle through, and that everyday life goes up and down, back and forth, and round and round.
Married-with-kids couple Pete and Debbie (Rudd and Mann) are becoming middle-aged. Debbie turns 40; it’s a little traumatic for her. She insists she’s 38. She sneaks too many cigarettes. Hubby Pete sneaks too many cupcakes. Their kids squabble. Pete’s father, Larry (Albert Brooks), is a major money-moocher. Oliver (John Lithgow) is Debbie’s distant and disdainful doctor dad.
Megan Fox plays one of Debbie’s employees, who’s tattled on by another employee as stealing from the company but whose suspiciously lavish lifestyle turns out to be funded by escorting. Debbie covets her youthful employee’s flawless body (which is not the only reason Megan Fox was cast—she also has pretty flawless comedic timing).
Debbie discovers some online bullying and tongue-lashes the boy who addressed her daughter improperly, making him cry (he’s 13). Then she figures out later that he just has a schoolboy crush on her daughter.
Pete tries to keep his record label, “Unfiltered Records,” from going under but refuses to pay attention to trends and insists on signing washed-up musical acts.
So they’ve got aging parents, money problems, kids online too much, nagging addictions, and a growing case of “familiarity breeds contempt.” Sound familiar? It’s a slice of current American family life, as we know it.
Like most of Apatow’s movies, “This Is 40″ is quite funny. Leslie Mann is consistently the funniest, with Rudd a close second, and the eldest daughter’s preteen hysterics a close third. As in most R-rated comedies, the shock value of cursing begets a number of cheap laughs.
The one slightly disturbing scene is of the couple getting dragged into the principal’s office to face accusations by the mother of the boy Debbie harassed. Pete and Debbie take advantage of the fact that the boy’s mother (Melissa McCarthy of “Bridesmaids”) is a little bit off, and lie their way out of trouble. They think nothing of it, as if they are entitled to pull the wool over the principal’s eyes because they’re better looking.
So what do we get? Some pretty good laughs. And an affirmation that life is messy, basically. It’s good to have a sense of humor. Life would improve if we could stop eating cupcakes, but it’s so difficult to give up cupcakes. So round and round we go.
Director: Judd Apatow
Cast: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, John Lithgow, Albert Brooks, Megan Fox, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow
Running Time: 2 hours, 14 minutes
Rating: R for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language, and some drug material
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