This is 40, the sequel to Knocked Up, is an honest, mature effort by it’s director Judd Apatow to tell an unfiltered, comedic look inside the life of a married couple with kids who are about to hit the “dreaded” 40 years of age. Whether he is directing or producing, Apatow still carries a reputation of creating comedies, mixed in with a high dosage of raunchiness, that become instant classics. Which is why it is disappointing that This is 40 is his second film that doesn’t reach superlative heights (the first being “Funny People”). Between hit and miss laughs, an obvious lack of rhythm, and an over-welcomed duration of 2 hours and 15 minutes, the movie never quite gels as a whole.
The plot has Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprising their roles as Pete and Debbie from Knocked Up, a husband and wife both approaching a milestone meltdown. After years of marriage, Pete (Paul Rudd) now has a house full of females: wife Debbie (Leslie Mann) 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 returns to the problems that afflict adults, in particular, marriage. All marriages go through some difficulties and drawbacks, but sometimes some couples succeed in surviving their stumbles and getting back to their loving ways. That is what emerges here, told in an honest portrait of the challenges and rewards of marriage in 2012. What This is 40 has going for it is its likeable characters, its Apatow-honest dialogue and its uneasy, tense situations. But despite the charm of its leads, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, the film is hindered with pacing issues. Apatow, whose job as a director is to make sure that the flow from scene to scene never loses its energy nor intensity, overextends several scenes to the point of exhaustion. Much of this could be because his wife and kids are in the film or it could be because he thinks his script is extremely funny and god forbid his “hilarious” jokes are cut out.
Successful comedies are those that manage to make the best use of the funniest moments within a story in perfect flow. This is usually why the best comedies are 1 hour 30 minutes to 45 minutes, any more and those jokes aren’t cracking ribs anymore. Apatow gives us a whopping 2 hours and 15 minute duration betting that every scene, every joke, every situation is rip-roaringly funny. At that length, it’s most likely that moviegoers will hit a wall in the middle that will take them out of the flow. Not aiding the pacing are the numerous subplots that sidetrack you from the core of the fragile relationship and home affairs.
The best parts of the movie figure Apatow’s kids, in particular, Maude Apatow (Judd and Leslie’s older daughter) who was a scene stealer. Her rants are memorable and laugh out loud funny. My guess is she’s going to be a funny and or great dramatic actress. She has the chops to do it.
As moments and fragments, This is 40 offers some very good laughs, with some soul, but it is the whole that doesn’t leave a solid impression. In terms of laughter, if you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, Ted, 21 Jump Street and Silver Linings Playbook do a much better job for your money. This is 40 is better viewed on Blu-Ray where the price doesn’t burn your pocket.