Feb 15 2013 by Ian Bunting, Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser
This Is 40
Writer and director Judd Apatow’s “sort of” sequel to 2007 comedy Knocked Up focuses on secondary characters from that film, married couple Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), and the impact turning 40 has on both their lives.
This is Apatow’s first directorial effort since 2009's critic and audience-splitting Funny People (I liked it); and we’re in similar territory here.
It’s not the regular riotous comedy of earlier work such as The 40-Year-Old Virgin or ‘predecessor’ Knocked Up but it has its moments as Apatow once again shows his serious side; grown-up responsibilities and mid-life crises taking over from the health and mortality issues posed in Funny People.
His story dissects Pete and Debbie’s marriage, all the way from the bedroom (Pete’s use of Viagra) to financial concerns, via musical tastes and changes in diet.
The consequence of this warts-and-all approach, combined with Debbie’s point-blank refusal to accept her impending birthday milestone, is that the lead couple don’t come across as all that likeable.
Arguing dominates and it gets a little old, with Apatow’s real-life wife Mann continually moaning and crying, making her suffer more than the always-charming-no-matter-what Rudd.
This combustible relationship also spreads to daughters Maude (Sadie) and Iris (Charlotte) — Apatow’s actual daughters — turning them from the adorable scene-stealers they played in Knocked Up to a grumpy teenager and sappy moppet.
Things are a little aimless too as the movie meanders along for large spells of its two hour-plus running time, lacking Apatow’s other films’ central idea and sense of purpose.
But things are far from all bad. Apatow is still the king of sexual humour and offers up some zinging one-liners.
Bringing ‘daddy issues’ into the story allows us to enjoy two very different, but no less compelling, performances from Albert Brooks (Larry) and John Lithgow (Oliver), culminating in a fine ‘lay the cards on the table’ scene at Pete’s birthday party.
The supporting cast are also very strong. Jason Segal (Jason), Chris O’Dowd (Ronnie) and Bridesmaids’ Melissa McCarthy (Catherine) get the best laughs, the latter in particular during a curse-laden parent/ teacher meeting.
Megan Fox (Desi) deserves a mention too for sending up many people’s views of her persona and musicians Graham Parker and Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong are game for giggles playing themselves.
As bloated as Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up, and with too much emphasis on shout first, be civil to each other later, dialogue, This Is 40 is saved from cinematic menopause by its funny and frisky shenanigans and gag-happy secondary characters.