This is 40 is a movie with an identity crisis. Unfortunately its not the identity crisis of any of its characters, who at 40 could be careening into some sort of midlife crisis. No, the film itself is horribly unsure of what it wants to be and, like the 40-something father cruising into his driveway on an unstable new motorcycle, crashes hard because of it.
Judd Apatow, much like that mid-life crisis male, needed someone to tell him to stop and take a hard look at what he was doing. At two hours and fifteen minutes the film is almost a perfect metaphor for its own subject matter. Unfortunately that just doesn’t make that good a movie.
This is 40
Director: Judd Apatow
Release Date: December 21, 2012
This is 40 is kind of a sequel to Knocked Up in that Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann play the same characters they did in that film. Pete (Rudd) and Debbie (Mann), the perennially arguing couple from Knocked Up, are both turning 40 in the same week, and are taking a look at their lives, especially their relationship. In actuality the movie has almost nothing to do with Knocked Up, and the characters from that film aren’t even mentioned, leading one to believe that the connection was more of a marketing ploy than anything else. Marketing ploy or not, it is a Judd Apatow film and thus has the possibility of being fall on the floor funny while also being plenty smart.
The movie is both of those things… at times. The film starts off as more of a series of vignettes that poke fun at being 40, parenting, sex and life in general. In this way the movie actually works wonderfully, as Pete and Debbie’s relationship unfolds in an incredibly believable manner. They have fights and make up. They have sex and they don’t. They’re good together in some scenes and not in others. It is what I believe being 40 is all about. The problems start to arise as the film carries on (and on) and attempts to establish a more cohesive plot involving their parents and the two of them veering towards divorce.
Suddenly a really believable couple that has been constructed wonderfully through a series of loosely connected scenes becomes a melodramatic cliche. The film starts hitting rom-com cues that should make someone as supposedly original as Apatow vomit, and yet as the film rambles to its conclusion were treated to an ending so perfect it completely devalues the fantastic relationship dissection of the beginning of the film. The ending is a smack to the face of the movie that screams that whoever stuck it on there has no idea that the movie was called This is 40 and thought it was called This is the Happy Ending to a Movie About 40-Year-Olds.
That doesn’t truly encompass all the film’s issues though. While the end of the movie may ruin the parts that came before, it’s not like all those parts are good either. 134 minutes of disjointed vignettes is way too many, even if a few forced story lines are crammed in there. The quality of the scenes varies far too greatly to be anywhere near consistent leaving you laughing at one moment and weakly smirking the next. Hit and miss comedy for 90 minutes is salvageable; for 134 minutes its painful.
Rudd and Mann also seem to be a bit lost with their characters. While Paul Rudd is Paul Rudd throughout the entire film, Mann seems to not connect with the character she’s playing. There’s a definite distance with her performance during scenes that should be more emotional than she plays them. Part of this may come from the film’s vignette structure, which isn’t handled all that well, but a lot of it stems from the fact that the two actors seem a bit out of their depth during a lot of scenes. Surprisingly Meagan Fox seems to be the most comfortable in her role, though it couldn’t have taken much work to nail “being hot” down.
This is 40 definitely has some fantastic parts to it, but none of them are worth sitting through the entire film for, which in the end only leaves you feeling like the movie itself gave up on what it wanted to be and settled depressingly into the life it was told to have. If the goal of Apatow was to make a film that in itself was a metaphor for a 40-year-old person having a failed mid-life crises than he succeeded, if it was to actually make a good movie about being 40 than he failed.