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.