Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) have birthdays that fall in the same week. Both are about to turn 40 but Debbie refuses to acknowledge she’s entering middle age and insists she’s only 38. The couple has two kids, 13-year old Sadie (Maude Apatow) and eight-year old Charlotte (Iris Apatow) who’s constant bickering, and Sadie’s entering puberty, adds stress to a marriage that has plenty of pressure from other factors. First, Pete’s dad Larry (Albert Brooks) has been borrowing money from Pete for quite some time. Larry’s drapery business isn’t doing well and he’s having trouble supporting his second wife and their triplet sons. Pete continues to give Larry money but has been lying to Debbie, telling her he stopped. Pete also has started an independent record label featuring his favorite artists from the 1970’s and it isn’t doing well, forcing Pete to take out a second mortgage on the family home. Pete is keeping Debbie in the dark about how dire their financial situation is. Debbie runs a clothing store that has recently lost $12,000 through employee theft. She only has two employees, Desi (Megan Fox) and Jodi (Charlyne Yi), so one of them must be the thief. Debbie’s father Oliver (John Lithgow) left his family when she was only eight and has been distant ever since. He now has another wife and a couple of kids to whom he pays a great deal of attention, causing Debbie to feel even more abandonment. Adding to all of this is a 40th birthday party for Pete that the couple really cannot afford to throw. As her kids get older and Pete seems more uninterested, Debbie questions her attractiveness and worth, wondering if she and Pete can put the excitement back into their marriage or if they should just call it quits.
“This is 40” is a Judd Apatow directed film featuring a script he wrote and starring his wife Leslie Mann and his two daughters. It highlights several actors with whom Apatow has worked before: Mann, Jason Segal, Paul Rudd, Lena Dunham, Chris O’Dowd and Melissa McCarthy. The story includes drug use, sex scenes and enough foul language to make a sailor blush. In other words, it’s a pretty typical Apatow movie but with one exception; it isn’t all that funny.
That’s not to say “This is 40” is totally devoid of laughs. There are moments of humor, some mild while others produce big chuckles, but they are far outweighed by the nearly unrelenting anger and arguing of the two main characters and their daughters. The level of vitriol between Mann and Rudd or Mann and Maude Apatow or Rudd and Maude Apatow or Maude and Iris Apatow reached nearly toxic levels for me. As the fighting and secrets and lies continued on and on, I arrived at a point where I wanted to reach through the screen and start knocking some heads, hoping to beat a little sense into these characters. I understand there has to be conflict to create drama and sometimes that conflict can result in comedy; but the heaping mounds of yelling and screaming and crying was at times overwhelming. Perhaps Judd Apatow is trying to branch out into more serious dramas and leave his primarily comedic films behind. If that’s his plan, I wish his movies wouldn’t be advertised as comedies. Tell us the truth and let us make an informed decision about whether we want to subject ourselves to 90 or so minutes of arguing.
All the characters in the film come off as either whiny brats or self-important jerks. The only exception to this is Megan Fox’s character Desi. She seems completely comfortable with herself and her life. Fox does a very good job with this supporting character. While she doesn’t break any acting ground with the role, she does come off as relatable, likeable and fairly normal along with being painfully attractive. Since no one in an Apatow film can just be a good person, we are told Desi has a job on the side that is supposed to color our opinion of her. For me, it didn’t and felt like a cheap ploy to drag her down to everyone else’s level.
“This is 40” is rated R for pervasive language, crude humor, sexual content and some drug material. The movie opens with a couple having sex in a shower. We see another couple observed on a surveillance camera having sex in a store and oral sex is vividly suggested on one occasion. There are discussions of a sexual nature as well. For a Judd Apatow movie, the drug references are surprisingly limited to one occurrence when the couple eats a marijuana cookie and gets cutely goofy. The humor is often of the bathroom variety, sometimes actually taking place in a bathroom. Foul language is common throughout the film.
While “This is 40” gets points for trying to tackle subjects of growing up and growing older, it does so in a very annoying way with lots of yelling, screaming and fighting. It also tries to tell its story with characters who only begin to grow up because that’s what the script says to do, not because we actually believe they’ve learned anything. This combined with a lack of much very funny going on and you get a film that tries the patience of the viewer. We all know Judd Apatow can make a funny movie. I just wish he’d made this one funny as well.
“This is 40” gets three disappointed guitars out of five.
Family comedy, musical extravaganza and Tarentino hit screens this Christmas week. Vote for the next movie I see and review.
Django Unchained—A freed slave and a German-born bounty hunter roam the South just before the Civil War looking for the most wanted criminals and the former slave’s wife who is still in bondage.
Les Miserables—Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption.
Parental Guidance—Old school grandfather Artie (Billy Crystal), who is accustomed to calling the shots, meets his match when he and his eager-to-please wife Diane (Bette Midler) agree to babysit their three grandkids.
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently playing in theatres.
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.