“This Is 40” Movie Review

     A lot of people don't realize "This Is 40" is only Judd Apatow's fourth directorial outing.  The Apatow name has become somewhat household within the realm of mainstream comedy ever since the director's breakout hit "The 40 Year Old Virgin".  This is not only because of that film, but also for several credits as producer and writer in such films as "Step Brothers", "Bridesmaids", and "Get Him To The Greek" among many others. As a result the descriptive phrase "Apatow Comedy" has been created and there is a lot of expectation when we see his name headlining a film in some capacity.  Apatow's latest effort is billed as a "sort of" sequel to his second film "Knocked Up".  A few years after the events in that film, we now get a very detailed look into the lives of Pete and Debbie, whom you may remember were friends of the characters played by Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl in the first film.

     This is truly an Apatow family affair and it's easy for one to believe the vast majority of the film is based on true events in his family's life since Debbie is played by his real life wife, Leslie Mann, and the two kids are played by his real life daughters, Maude and Iris.  Essentially standing in Apatow's place is Paul Rudd, who plays Pete, the father of the family.  For nearly three hours, "This Is 40" doesn't tell a real story, rather it seems to be a glimpse of random, though chronological, events in this family's life.  As a result, we get a mixed bag of the standard ups and downs husbands and wives go through with themselves, as well as their kids.  Perhaps the biggest issue many will have with this film are the problems these people face really seem to be minor as compared to the problems people are facing across the country.

     Pete owns an independent record label and Debbie operates a designer clothing store.  They live in a sprawling Los Angeles home that appears to be professionally decorated and kept up by a maid.  The rooms these people inhabit hardly look lived in.  Within the bliss that is their rich neighborhood, fancy cars, and electronic gadgets they find time to argue about Pete's affinity for playing "Words With Friends" while sitting on the toilet and the kids have temper tantrums when the parents take away their "Wi-Fi".  Hardly the likely problems of the average person living paycheck to paycheck, but I suppose tis the life of those in the LA entertainment industry.

     With the lack of any kind of narrative, Apatow simply jumps around from situation to situation, always putting his protagonists in a position where the age of 40 will come up.  Debbie still has a number 38 on her birthday cake and refuses any kind of birthday situation.  Pete reveals and finally begins to care about his cholesterol being 305, likely because of his constant gorging on cupcakes and other sweets.  The couple is seemingly growing apart and admit more than once they are together for their kids and not for each other.  During the film's running time, Pete and Debbie seemingly ride a relationship roller coaster where we see them having fun during a weekend trip to Laguna Beach, only to come back to reality at the first sign of trouble with their kids. For many of us, this seems all to familiar and if "This Is 40" proves one thing, it's that money doesn't solve problems.

     There are other sub plots at play, though none of them really form any semblance of a story we can follow.  Debbie suspects one of her employees of having stolen $12 thousand from the store.  The employee, played by Megan Fox, is also a constant symbol of the youthful body Debbie desires throughout the film.  Pete's record label, which focuses on reviving classic artists few young people have heard of, is going under financially.  It's also revealed that Pete's father, played by Albert Brooks, has borrowed $80 thousand in the past 2 years without Debbie's knowledge.  Jason Segal appears as Debbie's personal trainer without much of an impact, though he does get a funny line near the end of the film.  Stealing the show is Melissa McCarthy, who plays a pissed off mother during a parent / teacher conference with Pete and Debbie.  Not only is her scene a laugh out load riot, it's also worth sticking around during the end credits for the outtakes from that scene.

     I'm not sure what Apatow set out to create with "This Is 40".  Perhaps he wanted to give people a glimpse into his own life in some way and he chose this film to do it.  The result isn't exactly fresh or original and it's strengths sometimes reach the heights of his better work, but it's weaknesses shine bright with no real beginning and end.  I remember watching and thinking "Where is this going?". Even when the end finally arrives, it's so random that you think it could've ended the same way an hour before.  These characters are likable, but in the end, do you really care what happens to them?  Not really.  GRADE: C