In a sort of sequel to Knocked Up, This is 40 takes a look at the lives of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) as they turn 40 and discover that the challenges they faced 10 years ago may or may not have changed all that much.
Although Judd Apatow may be a name synonymous with comedy, he has actually only directed four feature length films. Apatow first became known as a producer and writer and it is becoming increasingly more evident that directing his not his strong point. The 40 Year Old Virgin was great and Knocked Up was OK, but Funny People was a disappointment, and This is 40 is not much better.
Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann both fare badly in this film. While they start off well, it is not long before he descends into being the stereotypical lazy, lying, disinterested husband, and Leslie Mann devolves into a shrill harpy who unconvincingly lies about her age. Hasn’t that joke been done to death already? The couple tries several times to fix their marriage, but nothing ever seems to be resolved, even though we are given what we are told is a ‘happy ending’.
Mann and Apatow’s real life kids play Pete and Debbie’s daughters in the film and, while they are probably bundles of adorable hilarity at home, it is clear that these two have very little acting talent. Maude shrieks and acts like a horrible teenager all the time, and Iris delivers scripted lines while only just managing not to look at the camera. This is not their fault, but is a classic example of why work and family should (almost) always be kept separate.
Celebrity cameos come thick and fast, and This is 40 quickly begins to feel like a Who’s Who of Apatow films; Megan Fox, Jason Segal, Lena Dunham, Chris O’Dowd, Charlene Yi, John Lithgow, Melissa McCarthy and Albert Brooks all turn up, each as underused as the last. Except maybe Chris O’Dowd; at least he has a couple of funny lines.
It appears that Apatow relied heavily on improvisation for This is 40 – this is not necessarily a complaint; some of the best lines for Knocked Up were obviously improvised – but this reliance seems to have come about due to a lack of script. This is 40 takes so long to get anywhere near where it is going that the film feels like a series of sketches tacked together with the thinnest of threads. As well as this, both Pete and Debbie have Daddy issues, and both of their fathers have two tier families. This may be true, or based on truth, but it does not work on screen; one or the other, but not both! The same goes for both of their businesses failing. Cheap gag, overused. In fact, that seems to be the theme of the film.
This is 40 is a thoroughly depressing look at a family moving into the second phase of its life. Stereotypical characters plus improvisation does not equal funny and, since nothing is ever resolved, the feeling at the end of the movie is of dissatisfaction. Thank god Melissa McCarthy’s credit scene is hilarious or all hope would be lost.