This Is 40, Review
This is 40 delivers the laughs, but what the heck happened to Ben and Alison?
134 Mins. Dir. By: Judd Apatow with
Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann and Megan Fox
Aging is an enemy we all struggle with, daily. Anger towards a faceless villain is ultimately taken out on those around you, causing distress and upheaval in even the most joyous of marriages. Judd Apatow however, wanted to explore the funnier side of things in his semi-sequel to Knocked-Up. This is 40 delivers more laughs than I expected it to, but is also another drawn out feature with unnecessary characters that has become the stamp of Apatow’s oeuvre.
Pete and Debbie haven’t changed all that much since the events of Knocked-Up. Pete now runs his own independent record label and Debbie owns a posh clothing store that she never seems to actually work at. Their daughters have grown up, putting the pressures of dealing with boys and too much technology on everyone’s plate. When Pete’s newest venture into reviving the career of a previously unsung rock legend fails, the world of Pete and Debbie collapses in a landslide. From Pete’s mooching father to the $12,000 dollars missing from Debbie’s store, nothing seems to go right for these two as they both turn 40, weeks apart from each other.
Apatow has become a slave to his own formula. Opening and closing on strong notes, halfway through this 134 minute comedy, the yawning starts. This is 40 is filled with ancillary characters who signify the typical threats to the relationship of a not-so-old couple who think they are past their prime, but ultimately pose no threat at all. Bringing back Jason Segel as his creepy, womanizing character from Knocked-Up may add some chuckles, but it also adds inconsequential time that does nothing to push the story forward. I love seeing Chris O’Dowd getting more American exposure and the majority of the world is on the Lena Dunham bandwagon since Girls started playing on HBO, but the inclusion of their characters and the well known names playing them just derails the story and chops it into funny segments instead of a well flowing film.
There’s no balance to This is 40. At times it feels as if the most important goal was to be funny and nothing else. Through fighting to be funny, the story suffers from odd faults that are never fully resolved. Pete’s financial troubles force him to put the family house on the market and he receives an offer without Debbie even knowing he put it up for sale. How on earth can you put a house up for sale and get an offer without your wife knowing? Someone made a bid without even viewing the property? John Lithgow plays Debbie’s absentee father whose actual relationship to his daughter is not fully explained until the end of the movie as if it was meant to be a shocking twist. It’s also time Apatow stop casting his wife as a woman who thinks no one wants to sleep with her. I know the most confident of people will always question their worth to other people (usually as a way to fish for compliments), but really, who are they kidding? If she really feels that way, just send her my way and I’ll take care of it. Not enough effort was put into tying together a proper story and while the end result does deliver the laughs, it also leaves the audience with a dissatisfying taste in their mouths.
This is 40 was originally slated to come out last spring, but its push to the holiday season does shed light on a few unfortunate mishaps in timing. Pete is seen sporting a full cycling bodysuit emblazoned with the Livestrong logo across his chest, as well as in other places. While the Livestrong charity obviously still does a lot of good for so many people, its ties to Lance Armstrong cannot be undone. Armstrong’s recent and speedy decline from grace was the first thing that popped into my head when that cycling suit appeared screen. There is also a cameo by recently shamed lead singer of Green Day, Billie Joe Armstrong (two disgraced Armstrongs in one movie; mind officially blown), who’s well documented meltdown at a pop music concert led to his latest stint in rehab. There was no way Apatow could have seen these events coming and in no way does it affect the movie, but the glorious coincidence is too glaring, not to make mention of it.
Back around 2007, Katherine Heigl made some comments about her work on Knocked Up saying it was, “a little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys. … I had a hard time with it, on some days. I’m playing such a bitch; why is she being such a killjoy?” Now, I don’t feel her comments were meant to be damaging towards the film and she certainly played make-up with Apatow and Seth Rogen over the matter, but it solidified the fact that she would not return as Debbie’s sister and, in turn, Seth Rogen does not return as Ben. It seems odd that such important people in these character’s lives are all of a sudden non existant at some central moments. Debbie’s relationship with her biological father is a major plot point of this film; why does Alison not factor into that at all? We’re almost led to believe that Alison and Ben just don’t exist anymore, if not for the fact Peter mentions he has a marijuana cookie Ben gave him a year ago. Besides the fact these characters are mentioned just in passing, it raises the question as to who the hell eats a year old cookie?
People will get what they paid for when they walk out of This is 40. They’ll laugh, some will cry and some little boy will hold his popcorn over his lap when Leslie Mann manhandles Megan Fox’s breasts. Laughs are one thing and This is 40 does have its fair share of them, but that doesn’t excuse the see-saw nature of this poorly presented film. Much like its characters, This is 40 is the midlife crisis of movies.