This Is 40 (2013)

14 February 2013

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This is 40. Five years after writer/director Judd Apatow introduced us to Pete and Debbie in Knocked Up, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their roles as a husband and wife both approaching a milestone meltdown in This Is 40, an unfiltered, comedic look inside the life of an American family.

After years of marriage, Pete lives in a house of all females: wife Debbie and their two daughters, eight-year-old Charlotte (Iris Apatow) and 13-year-old Sadie (Maude Apatow).  As he struggles to keep his record label afloat, he and Debbie must figure out how to forgive, forget and enjoy the rest of their lives…before they kill each other.

In his fourth directorial outing, Apatow’s new comedy captures what it takes for one family to flourish in the middle of a lifetime together.

What emerges is a deeply honest portrait of the challenges and rewards of marriage and parenthood in the modern age.  Through the filmmaker’s unblinking lens, we follow one couple’s three-week navigation of sex and romance, career triumphs and financial hardships, aging parents and maturing children.

The all-star cast portraying the family and friends, colleagues and neighbors represents an ensemble of actors from many of Apatow’s previous projects, as well as new comedy players who have been welcomed into the fold.  They include John Lithgow, Megan Fox, Chris O’Dowd, Jason Segel, Melissa McCarthy, Graham Parker, Lena Dunham, Annie Mumolo, Robert Smigel, Charlyne Yi, Lisa Darr and Albert Brooks.

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“The idea of the story is simple enough, which in itself might put audiences off...”

Judd Apatow returns with This is 40, only his fourth feature film, presented as a semi sequel to Knocked Up.

We last saw Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) bickering constantly and trying to raise their sweet and slightly evil daughters Sadie (Maude Apatow) and Charlotte (Iris Apatow). We rejoin them a little older, not that much wiser in the week they both turn 40.

Pete now runs his own record label, which is niche to say the least, and Debbie runs a clothing store with sexy salesgirl Desi (Megan Fox) and the somewhat different Jodi (Charlane Yi). The odd couple nature of the two salesgirls is as blunt as a sledgehammer, and it’s these overlooked and clichéd plot devices where Apatow begins to unravel.

The idea of the story is simple enough, which in itself might put audiences off. If you're looking for a neat little bow at the end of this story or people changing and resolving their issues then Apatow’s laissez faire storytelling isn’t for you. Money is a problem, they don’t have enough of it and this is Pete’s problem.

Their relationship isn’t good and their children aren’t acting the way they’d like; this is Debbie’s problem. The archaic gender roles in this film are slightly depressing to say the least and insulting when you think about them.

The fact that Debbie takes no involvement in the family’s finances but runs her own clothing shop (because woman love fashion) and doesn’t realize immediately that having an independent record label in a declining economy is not ideal in the first second of the film is ridiculous.

The film does have its good points - Melissa McCarthy steals the show as an irate parent alongside her Tom Petty lookalike son. Rudd and Mann are hilarious when they’re directed with other people, maybe it’s a testament to the realistic storyline or perhaps Apatow can’t bare to cut any screen time of his two main stars, but halfway through this two hour epic you’ll be hoping this is going to turn into Kramer Vs Kramer.

Apatow tries to pin down what happens when middle age hits and how your decisions earlier in life may trap you later, as mooching parents and viagra are just some of the topics touched upon.

It's exhausting to watch as Pete and Debbie run through their lives all the while sniping at each other, though the stellar cast provides for some genuine hysterical moments.

However Apatow's Achilles heel is yet again to not edit out unnecessary scenes to cut down its two hour running time. Even though Debbie's character is expanded and given more time to breathe on screen, Apatow doesn't seem to write a female character that has any depth other then worrying about her age.

It has some amazingly funny moments that will have you shocked - but Apatow's need to let his male ensemble ramble on screen for as long as they want let's it down.

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