A review of This is 40
“The sort-of sequel to Knocked Up” goes the tagline for This is 40. If ever a film needed piggybacking off that highly-successful comedy, it’s this one. While Knocked Up was fresh and consistently funny, this is much like its infuriating younger sibling desperately trying to be different despite having nothing original or interesting to say.
Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann – Judd Apatow’s real-life wife) are born within the same week and Debbie is having more problems turning 40 than Pete is. With their pubescent kids (Judd Apatow’s real-life children) giving them grief and financial problems hovering over Pete because of his failing record company, their marriage isn’t exactly going smoothly. Having also to support Pete’s useless father (Albert Brooks) and slowly integrate Debbie’s estranged one (John Lithgow), it’s all about whether their marriage can survive them turning 40.
Unfortunately we never find out but assume everything turns out hunky-dory. Dubbed a ‘dramedy’, Judd Apatow has given us a long-running skit of married life, rather than what it’s like hitting the big 4-0 – its segments of screaming (the kids), neurotic whining (Leslie Mann), grating overuse of sarcasm (Paul Rudd), and awful acting (Leslie Mann again), infrequently interspersed with some laugh-out loud moments (everyone else).
It moves from one scene to the next at a disorderly pace, and Pete and Debbie are much like the poster couple for bipolar; one moment they are all happily in love, the next at each other’s throats. When they argue about something which has obviously been festering away in their relationship, it makes no sense as we never see that build up – it just happens. It’s writing at its laziest.
It’s a shame because there are some, as expected, really funny lines. But it appears all Apatow’s focus was to get everyone to say something snappy – which includes the unbelievable dialogue the kids spout – rather than have any character development.
Then you have things like them arguing over their financial state and how they are almost bankrupt, yet they can still throw lavish birthday parties and live in what can only be described as a mini-mansion. It’s hard to feel sorry for either of them when they yell at each other and their children for these kinds of poorly thought-out situations.
So with unlikeable leads, this is only saved thanks to a half-decent soundtrack and some genuine comedic moments. Pete constantly sitting on the toilet just to get away from Debbie and play a scrabble-type game on his iPad is one of them, and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) steals the film with her five minute cameo.
In fact, any time one of the supporting actors appears it gives the movie a lift, not least because it mentally takes us away from the dire and trite interactions between Pete and Debbie. What is even more damning is that these supporting roles, played by the likes of Jason Segal and Chris O’Dowd (separated at birth anyone?), are completely pointless. Apatow’s previous serious comedy, Funny People, at least knew where it was going with all its characters and had them, as well as a storyline, worth following.
There are a few highlights in an otherwise long, dull and forced comedy, but with an overload on screaming, Apple products and the love for TV’s Lost, This is 40 can easily be renamed This is (insert scathing adjective here). And you know something is seriously wrong when Megan Fox can’t even do sexy anymore.
- John Lithgow and Albert Brooks add a different dimension to the story and Melissa McCarthy has a blast in her small role.
- Long, plodding story that is more like a series of skits. Leslie Mann’s acting and her constant whining, as well as her annoying screaming teenage daughter.