Movie Review: This Is 40
Judd Apatow wrote, directed and produced “This is 40.” He cast daughters Maude and Iris Apatow as 13-year-old Charlotte and 8-year-old Sadie. He put his wife, Leslie Mann, in the leading role of Debbie. He based at least some of the script on experiences from his own life. Yet the movie that’s meant to be his most personal turns out to be his most dully generic.
Apatow has recycled the supporting characters from the livelier “Knocked Up,” who were never meant to carry a film, as the leads. He has given them stock dilemmas and clichéd squabbles and a resolution out of the tired Hollywood Fantasy Bin.
The repetitive results drag on for two hours and 10 minutes. Apatow loves this story so much that he has no idea when he’s made his points.
Male protagonist Pete (Paul Rudd) is another Apatow man-boy with an emotional age of 13. He launches a boutique record label that drains the family’s finances, drifts away from Debbie without any other romantic port in mind and virtually never connects with anybody, including the lazy father (Albert Brooks) whom he has lent $80,000 over many years.
Debbie, who refuses to accept that she’s entering the fifth decade of life, copes with two bickering children, the irritating Pete, the clothing store from which an unidentified employee has stolen $12,000 and a long-absent father (John Lithgow) who’s stumbling toward some kind of reconciliation with her.
The first half brings Apatow’s usual gross jokes: farts, monologues about vaginas, examinations of private parts fore and aft. We get not one but two scenes with Pete on a toilet, discussing his activity there. Jason Segel and Melissa McCarthy wander in to add wacky comic punch, which comes from their personalities rather than the writing.
Then comes the drama, and what familiar drama it is! Pete and Debbie struggle to understand each other, while their kids squawk and howl about revoked privileges and their parents reveal likeable sides. When the hotter of her employees (Megan Fox) takes her out to a night club, Debbie reaffirms her femininity.
Apatow did a brave (or self-indulgent) thing by casting his wife and pal Rudd as leads. Neither has tried to carry a significant movie before, and the reason quickly becomes apparent: After 30 minutes, they’ve exhausted their actors’ tricks and shown their entire emotional range.
They’re more interesting than the younger Apatows, who are shrill and clunky, but not by much. Putting these four in the same movie with Albert Brooks and John Lithgow mostly reminds us how pleasant it would be to see more pictures starring Albert Brooks and John Lithgow.