Review: This is 40

This is 40This is 40, the latest from writer, director, producer Judd Apatow, tells the story of Pete and Debbie (last seen in 2007’s Knocked Up) as they deal with life amidst financial issues, hormonal teenagers, guilt-tripping parents, and getting older. Like Apatow’s other films, This is 40 is funny and well acted but overstays its welcome by about 30 minutes. There isn’t much in terms of story. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are Pete and Debbie, respectively. They have two daughters, Sadie and Charlotte (Maude and Iris Apatow). Pete runs an indie record label on the brink of failure while Debbie operates a boutique in which one of the employees may or may not have embezzled $12,000. They both turn 40 around the same time and are having trouble dealing with the pressures of life. The movie chronicles this 2 to 3 week period leading up to Pete’s big birthday bash.

There are structural issues here as well. There are scenes in the movie that are here purely for laughs but don’t really make sense in the context of the film. Financial issues are one of the major things Pete and Debbie argue about, yet a third of the way into the film, out of nowhere, we see them take a romantic (and what can only be believed to be an expensive) getaway to a lavish resort to live it up for a weekend. This scene was very funny but felt as if it was thrown in just because it was funny. There are other scenes that are in purely for laughs (the scene with Melissa McCarthy comes to mind) but this one, and a couple others, felt as if it contradicts the movie.

Despite those issues, I did find the film entertaining. It’s very hard to not like Paul Rudd and to empathize with his character. Leslie Mann, playing what I assume to be an exaggerated version of herself, is very believable and funny. Rudd and Mann have great chemistry together as well as with Maude and Iris Apatow. Some of the best scenes in terms of both comedy and tension come when the entire family is on screen together. Albert Brooks turns in a good performance as Pete’s guilt tripping dad as does John Lithgow as Debbie’s emotionally distant father.

To say that this writer/producer is directing his wife and children in a film that is ostensibly about his life is self indulgent is an understatement. However, there’s much to like about This is 40 as long as you can get past its flaws.

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