Judd Apatow Apatows All Over This Is 40.

This is 40.
Director:
Judd Apatow.
Writer: Judd Apatow,
Studio: Universal Pictures.
Cast: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Megan Fox, Chris O'Dowd, Jason Segel, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Melissa McCarthy and Charlene Yi.

With This Is 40, writer, director and “Frat Pack” godfather Judd Apatow brings us the pseudo-sequel to his 2007 hit, Knocked Up, focusing this time on that film's unstable married couple and comedic relief, Pete and Debbie, with Paul Rudd and Apatow's real-life wife Leslie Mann reprising their roles right alongside Apatow's real-life daughters, Maude and Iris, who play their kids.

But, well, things aren't so funny with Pete and Debbie five years down the road. With both characters turning 40 years old in the same week, the couple has reached the “Is this it?” point in their lives, separately and simultaneously.

Suddenly, they have to face the facts of life (yes, the facts of life) and its unanswered questions:

“Did I become what I wanted to become?”

“Did I do everything I thought I would do?”

“Do I like my life?”

“Do the people in my life even like me?”

“Do I even like me?”

This is all to be expected. Apatow has made his name with heartfelt and relatable comedies for adults about adults that act like kids and realize they have to start acting like adults.

Very much in the same way that John Hughes' films were the cinematic mirror of a generation in the '80s, Apatow's characters are essentially the cast of The Breakfast Club, all grown-up, with angst-filled teens of their own and problems more serious than detention.

And, for the most part, Apatow achieves what he sets out to do and say in his Hughesian This is 40. The film genuinely does connect with the audience. It's relatable and reflexive. Whether you're 40, you're past 40 or you're 20 years off from 40, whether you've been married or even just in a serious relationship, and whether you've had parental issues or you're the guy rocking an ironic mustache trying to nail the Megan Fox in your life, This is 40 has something to depress everyone, all while making them laugh and reflect in between.

That said, This is 40 may not be as accessible to Apatow's audience as were some of his other, more broadly stroked films, such as The 40 Year Old Virgin or even Knocked Up. This film is far more authentic emotionally than either of those jaunts.

Apatow, of course, has been trending this way of late. Over the course of his filmography, Apatow has peeled back the layers more and more, falling back less on laugh-out-loud, slapstick scenarios and more on real-life drama that just happens to have hilarious moments. And, yes, this film has more than a few of those. But This is 40, while certainly more tailored than the genuinely depressing and overly bloated Funny People, mostly shows off an Apatow that's learned how to trim the emotional fat instead of just overly chewing on it. As a result, though the film still runs a little long and loose, it cuts to the emotional core in a poignant and bittersweet way.

It just feels, pseudo-sequel or not, like we've been over most of this material before.

Still, if you're looking to escape your own family drama by watching someone else's this holiday season, This is 40 should provide you with the laughs you're looking for. It might even offer you a little appreciation for your own beautiful dysfunctions in the process.

Rating: 6 out of 10 cupcakes.

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