Director/writer Judd Apatow loves to create biographical works about his own life. The problem is that it’s not necessarily what works for the audience. In watching his latest endeavor This is 40, I found myself remembering the terrible Funny People which was a similar Apatow film that attempted to blend the drama with the humor apparently inherent in his own life. That film was not good, and neither is this one. The film doesn’t know when to be funny or when to be dark and settles for a comfortable Lifetime Movie of the Week about the dangers of turning forty. All it seeks to do is show how life after forty is filled with drama, and do we really need a film to tell us that?
Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann), the characters from Apatow’s past film Knocked Up, return to show off their lives once they turn forty. With marital, financial, and personal drama looming on the horizon the two decide to find ways to “get happy.”
When Judd Apatow mentioned bringing back his characters from Knocked Up to create a film that wasn’t a direct sequel there was skepticism. This is 40 presents new situations for these characters, and holds little connection to Knocked Up outside of the characters names and the acting. It’s distracting to the audience expecting some connection to Knocked Up that never comes. It simple feels like poor brand recognition with the screenwriter hoping that audiences who loved them in Knocked Up will return here. The problem is that at the end of Knocked Up, the two had decided to resolve their issues. Here, they’re right at square one with no mention of the last time they tried to reconcile. If the movie wants to be a sequel or continuation than there needs to be continuity; there is none in This is 40. Instead the drama is overwrought and laughably dark. When a character reveals that another character is doing Oxycontin it’s hilarious because the character meant to be high doesn’t act like a junkie (instead they act like they’re high on pot), and considering that it’s Megan Fox revealing this…it’s hard to take her seriously. For some reason, Apatow doesn’t know how dark to go with his characters. Why couldn’t that particular character be high on pot, or just a poor worker? He bandies around drug addiction like its funny!
Aside from that the audience is forced to follow a group of characters that constantly nag each other for over two hours! It’s easy to understand why Pete and Debbie hate each other because the audience hates them! Debbie is never satisfied with anything, and Pete is a doormat. Not exactly rocket science to figure out there issues. It would be okay if there was some resolution, or a tight runtime to restrain things from going too naggy. Instead the film is two hours and Apatow starts to lose his way by the 90 minute mark. The problems the couple has become far too big to be solved in a two hour film and could have been condense and managed in a shorter runtime.
The actors seem far too comfortable in their roles, leaving them to just phone in their performances. Nothing new is showcased by Rudd or Mann. They seem to have lifted their performances from Knocked Up and pushed them up to eleven. The small roles for Apatow’s children Iris and Maude are increased here, and neither actress is particularly good. Megan Fox shows up…to just show up as the “normal” character. Other appearances from Chris O’Dowd, Charlene Yi, and other Apatow regulars just seem like stunt casting; especially considering Yi and other actors who appeared in Knocked Up (like Jason Segal) aren’t playing the same characters.
This is 40 is boring, depressing, and way too long. I’m not quite sure Apatow’s fascination with his own life, but I can say the audience doesn’t care about it. The script is dull and the directing is competent which I think shows that Apatow shouldn’t take on double duty.