I Love You Man

This Is 40

During the last few years, Judd Apatow has emerged on the comedic forefront with some very memorable movies.  Before his recent popularity, he began his career writing/directing several episodes of NBC’s critically acclaimed Freaks and Geeks.  His big screen directorial debut came with The 40 year Old Virgin, which I thought was hilarious.  Apatow kept the laughs going with Knocked Up, and This is 40 is the aptly billed “sort-of sequel” to that movie.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as funny as its predecessor.

Paul Rudd (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Apatow’s wife, actress Leslie Mann (The Change-Up) reprise their limited roles from Knocked Up, returning as Pete and Debbie.  They have two adorable daughters named Sadie and Charlotte, and they have a lot for which to be thankful.  However, it seems that Pete is rather bogged down with life’s common stressors, such as the demands of his job and family.  He gets most of his “me time” in the bathroom, before his wife routinely interrupts him and beckons him back to the family.  The movie shows how 40 isn’t “old,” but it definitely comes with a different set of demands and expectations.  Both Pete and Debbie own their own businesses, and each professional endeavor highlights unique feelings of inadequacy for both of them.  Pete has a fledgling record label and featured artist, while Debbie deals with younger employees at her own boutique.

Family is the central theme of the movie, with a focus not just on Sadie and Charlotte, but on their parents as well.  Pete’s father (Albert Brooks, Drive) has repeatedly borrowed money from him for years, to the family’s detriment.  Just as Debbie begins to accept her impending 40th birthday, she finds out that she is pregnant again and makes it clear that they can’t afford to hemorrhage funds to Pops.  She also has a strained relationship with her own father (John Lithgow, The Campaign), who divorced her mother long ago and started a second family.  She feels disconnected from him, as he is a much more visible presence in his second family’s life.  In the movie’s final act, Pete and Debbie try to resolve some long-standing issues with their fathers, with mixed results.

I liked This is 40, but if you are expecting non-stop hilarity you will be disappointed.  This is not one of Apatow’s funnier movies. I think Mann and Rudd are gifted comedic actors, and I enjoyed them in movies like I Love You Man and The Change-Up.  However, This is 40 is not as funny as either of those two movies.  It was more heart-warming and sweet than funny, and I was definitely straight-faced more than once.  The movie focuses on family so much that it became endearing.  That’s fine, but it’s not funny.  Good movie, but not as “laugh out loud” funny as I thought it would be.  Grade: B.

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

Let me begin with the disclaimer that we over here at The Fast Lane do not advocate drug use.  That being said, it’s very clear that A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas was meant to be viewed under the influence.  If you’re sober when watching (as I was), chances are you’ll be more exasperated than amused.  That’s not to say that there weren’t a few laughs, but it was about as stupid as I expected it to be.  This movie is for stoners and 13 year old boys.  Everyone else – watch at your own risk.

This was one of those movies that didn’t really need to be in 3D – but hey, whatever.  When we pick up with the cannabis-loving compadres, it’s obvious that Harold (John Cho, Flash Forward) and Kumar’s (Kal Penn) bromance has tapered off.  Harold is married and Kumar is…well, getting high every waking moment.  His girlfriend has recently dumped him, and he’s been wallowing for months.  When she tells him that she’s pregnant, he’s too high to respond like an adult.  Harold is the exact opposite.  He’s very stable and settled, and his life is quiet and simple, at least until his father-in-law shows up for Christmas.  Humorously portrayed by that menacing dude from the Tarantino movies, this guy is incredibly hard to please.  Upon his arrival he trashes Harold’s Christmas tree because it’s fake.  He brought his own fir tree that he’d grown for 8 years to decorate instead.  While Harold’s wife and father-in-law attend Midnight Mass he promises to decorate the tree.  The fact that his father-in-law grew the tree for 8 years should let you know how crazy he is about Christmas; so decorating the tree is a really big deal.  Harold hopes that if he does this successfully he can finally win the guy over.

Harold and Kumar have been estranged, because Harold thinks that whenever Kumar and weed are around things go tragically wrong.  This is borne out when Kumar shows up on Harold’s doorstep with a Christmas package for Harold that was delivered to his apartment.  They open it and see it contains a jumbo-sized joint.  Harold wants no parts of it, but Kumar sparks the spliff before he can stop him.  In the first of a series of truly ridiculous mishaps, the joint ends up setting the Christmas tree on fire.  Now Harold is tasked with replacing the tree before his wife and father-in-law return at 2:00 AM.  As soon as Kumar reappears, things start to go wrong – which confirms Harold’s recent exclusion of his old friend.

While they’ve lost touch they have each made new friends, though these new buddies aren’t the same.  Harold’s pal is Todd, played by the always hilarious Tom Lemmon (I Love You Man, Reno 911).  Kumar’s buddy is Adrian, who has convinced Kumar to tag along at a party in the city where he hopes to smang a girl he met online who claims to be a virgin.  Exactly. How much more juvenile can we get?  Harold realizes he could get another Christmas tree from the house party, while Adrian tries to score.  What transpires for the movie’s duration is a hodgepodge of misadventure as Harold and Kumar end up fighting off mobsters and dancing onstage with the strangely omnipresent Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), among other things.  All in a mad quest to get a perfect tree on Christmas Eve.

I can’t be mad, and I can’t say that I wasted an hour and forty minutes of my life.  The movie was exactly what I thought it would be.  It never took itself seriously, and shame on me for expecting it to.  Gratuitous, pointless 3D effects were peppered throughout, as well as obvious 3D references in the dialogue.  There were lots of boobs and drugs.  Neil Patrick Harris was funny as always, poking fun at his sexual orientation and generally looking like he was having a good time.  I didn’t have high expectations (no pun intended) to begin with, but I still found the movie a little disappointing.  Just because it’s a stoner movie doesn’t mean that you can just throw anything against the wall and hope it sticks.  Smarter, funnier stoner movies have been done, such as Pineapple Express and the Friday movies.  Just wait for this one to come out on DVD.  That way it’s cheaper, and when you get the munchies – it’s a short walk to the kitchen.

This article first appeared at http://poptimal.com/2011/11/a-very-harold-kumar-3d-christmas-review-stoners-retreat/ and was reprinted with permission.