I love Judd Apatow. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is one of my favorite comedies of all time, Knocked Up is a stoner comedy that managed to also be a heart-felt romantic comedy about the least sexy part of a one-night-stand, Freaks and Geeks was an instant addition to the parthenon of Gone Too Soon, almost every movie he's produced is absolutely hilarious, his college freshman sitcom Undeclared was nothing less than solid, and even Funny People was good when I finally forced myself to watch it. Needless to say, I was pumped for This is 40, the 'sort-of sequel' to Knocked Up featuring Apatow's wife Leslie Mann, his daughters Maude and Iris, and Apatow staple Paul Rudd.
Of course, with any sequel, 'sort-of' or otherwise, you always run the risk of jumping the shark. Pete, Debbie, and their daughters were one of the best parts of Knocked Up, and I would just be heart-broken if it was anything less than 100% Apatow-grade beef. Did the last movie I saw before the Mayan apocalypse live up to my expectations, or did it leave me wishing the world would end?
This is 40
The plot of This is 40 is almost deceptively simple. Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann) are both turning forty during what appears to be the longest week ever (more on that later), and their lives are full of all the complications of a married couple: money, parents, kids hitting puberty, Megan Fox's hot bod, and all the other stuff that comes with being forty. Can their marriage survive their birthday week? Who's stealing from Debbie's store? Will their daughter Sadie ever finish watching Lost? All these questions and more are answered over the course of the film's two hours and fourteen-minute runtime.
Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are great together. They were good in Knocked Up, but they are perfect here. They're a couple with problems, and plenty of them, but they're also a couple who loves each other. Maude and Iris Apatow have grown since Knocked Up, but both of them are still adorable, even if Maude's Sadie is adorably menstrual. Albert Brooks and John Lithgow appear as Pete and Debbie's respective fathers, and each one is wonderfully loath-able. Jason Segel and Charlyne Li reprise their roles of Jason and Jodi from Knocked Up, and both are very funny, but it would've been nice to see one or two more supporting characters make at least a brief appearance (there's not a single mention of Debbie's sister Alison or her baby-daddy Ben, the, y'know, main characters of Knocked Up). This is 40 also gave us what might be the least obnoxious performance of Megan Fox's career (although I am partial to Jennifer's Body). Melissa McCarthy plays the mother of a boy in Sadie's class, and is unsurprisingly one of the film's best minor characters. Finally, Chris O'Dowd and ugh Lena Dunham appear as two of Pete's employees at his failing retro record label. O'Dowd contributes a fair amount of laughs, especially once he is paired up with Segel. Dunham is certainly also in the film.
I enjoyed This is 40. It had that crass and crude while simultaneously heartfelt writing Apatow has perfected over the years. For every dick and fart joke (which there are aplenty), there's a genuinely endearing moment. My big problem is that even with 134 minutes, a lot of the subplots felt underdeveloped. You're given the bare minimum of backstory for most of them, but not many feel fleshed out. Honestly, why would Debbie hire Jodi? Why is Debbie's dad so distant? Does she really think that cupcakes are that terrible? It's not a good sign where a character trying to finish watching Lost is not only one of the best-developed subplots, but also one of the best pay-offs.
Even with the too-much-going-on-at-once feeling, I laughed my ass off. While I finally learned, courtesy of Madea's Witness Protection, that making one laugh =/= a good film, This is 40 did more than just made me laugh. It really feels like we're watching a family go through the trials and tribulations many modern families face. There's an obvious chemistry between Mann and her daughters, and Rudd succeeds in recreating the same chemistry with them, and it's a joy to watch.
As per usual, the soundtrack is as varied as it is awesome. With tracks ranging from A-Ha to Alice in Chains to Nikki Minaj, it has something for everyone, and I think the range of music represents the differences in the characters nicely.
This is 40 has its problems. Characters, as funny as they are, feel underdeveloped. There's too few references to Knocked Up. There wasn't enough of Leslie Mann's tits. But for all its flaws, This is 40 is a quality installment to the Apatow oeuvre. Funny, touching, and full of familiar faces, it ultimately delivers the goods. If This is 40 had been the last film I saw before Mayan zombies erupted from the bowels of the earth and devoured us all for mis-reading their calendar, I'd be alright with that.
And you get to see Leslie Mann's boob. Twice. That's a bonus five points right there.