With This is 40, Apatow's Shtick is Getting Old
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2012 21 Dec
DVD Release Date: March 22, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: December 21, 2012
Rating: R (sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material)
Run Time: 134 min.
Director: Judd Apatow
Cast: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, Melissa McCarthy, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Annie Mumolo, Megan Fox, Graham Parker, Albert Brooks
Editor's Note: This review contains frank discussion of subject matter that is sexual in nature. Parents please be advised.
Whether you’re a fan of his particular brand of humor or find it absolutely revolting, one of the consistently positive attributes of writer/director Judd Apatow’s work is seeing the transformation of his beloved loners, slackers and man-boys who are clearly outmatched by their female counterparts.
Yes, as a rule, the protagonists from The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Funny People eventually become more loving, giving and productive members of society when they were forced to grow up, which is never a bad thing, right?
Trouble is, the same can’t be said for This is 40, which is basically just an exercise in frustration. Sort-of picking up where 2007's Knocked Up left off with the movie’s supporting couple Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Apatow’s real-life wife, Leslie Mann), Apatow is here contemplating the ups and downs of marriage, money troubles and the untimely arrival of mid-life.
While there are a handful of genuinely funny moments thanks to scene-stealing cameos from Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) and Albert Brooks (The Simpsons Movie) who plays Paul’s mooching father, the bulk of This is 40 simply lacks the emotional connection of Apatow’s previous work. Weighed down by scatological humor in the worst possible taste (hemorrhoids are a punchline if that gives you an idea), an insufferable over-emphasis on all things sexual (see: Cautions below) and ill-conceived scenarios that, frankly, will feel grossly out of touch with the masses, Apatow’s shtick is wearing really thin.
If anything, This is 40 only underscores how important it is for a writer, established or otherwise, to have a good editor. A whole lot of red ink, basically the equivalent of the bloodshed in your average Quentin Tarantino flick, would’ve done this script good.
As appealing as the cast is with the likable Rudd (Our Idiot Brother) and Mann (The Change-Up) in the lead, the material they’re working with is just never a comfortable fit. Unless your idea of a good time is watching a couple bicker, full-on fight and whine about life not turning out as they hoped (they may have to sell their seven-figure home in sunny Los Angeles! Perish the thought!), chances are, This is 40 isn’t for you.
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.
- 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