The film’s flimsy structure is another major problem. In the absence of anything resembling a plot, This is 40 showcases a week’s worth of events (it feels much, much longer) leading up to Pete and Debbie’s respective 40th birthdays. Featuring a string of comedic vignettes that range from moderately amusing (when Pete’s idea of an escape is retreating to the bathroom with his iPad to catch up on his Scrabble moves) to downright laugh-free (a disgusting conversation about the side effects of Viagra use), the film often feels like a second-rate sitcom where the misery is four-and-a-half times longer than on TV.

No doubt, married couples and fractured families will find small points of resonance and relatability in This is 40. But for anyone looking for laugh-out-loud entertainment that doesn’t feel like the proverbial lump of coal this Christmas, it’s best not to rely on Apatow. Even a happy ending where life is neatly wrapped up in a bow can’t save this mess.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking, plus Debbie and Pete indulge in a pot brownie on vacation. Debbie is a secret cigarette smoker, and there’s mention of other people addicted to pot and Oxycontin. Viagra, and the dangerous side effects involved with using it, is discussed at length.
  • Language/Profanity: Per Apatow movie tradition, the “f” word is used close to 100 times. God’s name is often misused and paired with da--. There’s also a smattering of other profanity including sh--, he--, as-, as-ho-- and jacka--
  • Sex/Nudity: Pete and Debbie’s sex life, and sometimes, the lack thereof, is discussed at length graphically, even with Debbie’s trainer, Jason, at the gym. Jason makes wildly inappropriate comments about how great her body looks—and how it turns him on. While having sex in the shower, the aforementioned Viagra confession leads to another very crude conversation. Debbie performs oral sex on Pete—even while the kids are pounding on the door. Pete notices that Desi (Megan Fox) who works at Debbie’s store isn’t wearing underwear when he stares up her skirt. Desi tries to make the distinction between being an escort, which she is, and a hooker. Pete and Debbie see Desi having sex in a surveillance video, complete with explicit movements. Debbie squeezes Desi’s breasts to see if they’re real. Debbie’s own breast is bared twice—during a routine mammogram and while trying to seduce Pete. Porn is discussed, including how one of Sadie’s friends regularly views it. Pete is accused of touching a woman’s breast inappropriately during an argument. Paul uses a mirror to investigate the cause of the anal pain he’s experiencing. There is also plenty of sexually charged humor and crude references to sexual acts and male and female genitalia.
  • Violence: A bicycle accident knocks Pete to the ground when he collides into a SUV’s. Pete and the driver of the vehicle fight a little. While stoned, Pete and Debbie jokingly discuss how’d they kill each other—she’d poison the cupcakes he indulges in behind her back, he’d opt for a wood chipper.

Christa Banister is an author and full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.

Publication date: December 21, 2012