Review by Pete Mason
Ever since “Freak and Geeks” and “Undeclared,” Judd Apatow has been seen as the next generation of comedy directors in Hollywood. He transferred from television to movies flawlessly, with “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” kicking off careers of numerous actors and leading him back to television as the executive producer of HBO’s “Girls.”
The sort-of sequel to “Knocked Up,” “This Is 40” is his first film since the under-rated “Funny People,” and while the film has its moments, it winds up more disjointed than a seamless tale of a couple going through the motions of going ‘over the hill’ and the implications it has on their marriage and family.
Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) play the briefly featured couple from “Knocked Up,” as the friends of Ben (Seth Rogan) and Alison (Katherine Heigl). Pete and Debbie have two older kids (played by Apatow’s daughters Maude and Iris) and their story, a mirror to the future through which Ben and Alison examine parenthood, is brought to light in a full movie, as the couple both near the age of 40.
Debbie is in denial (insisting she is turning 38), but Pete is embracing 40 while focused on his failing record label and dealing with the adventures of marriage. There are fights, family meetings, playful banter in bed, arguments, discussions about sex, actual sex and all the drama of nearing middle age. But it is random when these come up, and the incidents are not always used for the purpose of progressing the plot – just scenes that are injected because they add some funny into the context of the couple’s life together.
That’s the weak spot of “This is 40” – some of the scenes are needless and detract from the plot, leaving the story a muddle of parts that do not form to make a whole. While the film does give a good portrayal of turning 40, the film feels incomplete and in disarray with scenes that could otherwise be cutaways of the “Family Guy” ilk. But for Apatow, it’s still funny and still a good movie – just lacking in a tight and consistent narrative.
Larry Murray’s review at Berkshire On Stage