Judd Apatow’s latest film This is 40 masquerades as a comical insight into the pressures facing a married couple as they hit the big 4.0. This (kind of) sequel to Knocked Up is really just a grab-bag of politically incorrect jokes and pop culture references rather than a fully-formed story. Like Knocked Up, about a third of the gags are genuinely funny but unlike that film This is 40 lacks a coherent narrative to hold our interest when the laughs aren’t happening.
Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), who first appeared five years ago in Knocked Up, are a couple on the precipice of middle age. With two children and rapidly growing financial problems, they find the pressures of life increasingly turning their relationship into one big screaming match. When Indie record label manager Rudd’s investment in the latest Graham Parker album tragically doesn’t bear fruit he faces losing the family home.
With its generous length, moderate gag hit rate and tele-movie production values, This is 40 outstays its welcome. There are sporadic funny moments in this film which usually involve people having psychotic meltdowns and viciously insulting each other but the laughs aren’t consistent. Gags about a weird Tom Petty lookalike kid and an obscene variation on Apple products are this film’s comic highlights.
Older music fans, though, will get a kick out of this film’s extensive references to classic and indie rock. It’s a fairly transparent attempt to bolster the film’s appeal to gen X music fans but it was great to see cameos from Graham Parker and Ryan Adams.
Paul Rudd is a fine lead in this sort of film as he’s able to convey an essential decency while still acting like a petulant child. Leslie Mann also does well to maintain sympathy for Debbie even though her behaviour can be quite cold. The extensive supporting cast are, however, a mixed bag in terms of their overall value to the film. Albert Brooks as Rudd’s layabout Dad and John Lithgow as Mann’s emotionally cold Father add some old school acting cred to proceedings. Melissa McCarthy is the comic highlight, though, as an enraged mother of a creepy high school kid. Charlyne Li is also genuinely weird and funny as Debbie’s light-fingered shop assistant. Jason Segel as Mann’s oily personal trainer, Chris O’Dowd as Pete’s quirky co-worker and Megan Fox as Debbie’s extremely unmotivated employee provide occasional amusement but overall seem superfluous and make the film unnecessarily bloated.
Had this film come out five years ago it might have seemed original and edgy but with so many sex comedies coming down the pike in recent years, its scattergun humour and genitalia gags are almost passé.
Nick’s rating: Two and a half stars.
Director(s): Judd Apatow.
Release date: 17th Jan 2013
Running time: 134 mins.
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