It’d be nice to think a film called This is 40 would offer some telling insights about a couple staring down the barrel of middle-age, but Judd Apatow’s attempt brings no hint of emotional maturity — or humour.
The latest film by the American writer/director/producer/all-rounder sees his regular cast of cahoots used to explore what it means to face middle-age.
In a not-quite sequel to Knocked Up, Apatow has adopted the family of four who appeared in Knocked Up as an amusing sub-plot to drive the film and extend his comedy portfolio consisting of dick jokes and stoner punch lines to covering marriage gags as well.
It’s now five years on from where we last left Seth Rogen and co. Assuming the lead players are doing just peachy, we’re left to follow the supporting cast – Debbie (Leslie Mann, Apatow’s real life wife) and Pete (Paul Rudd), in the lead up to their respective 40th birthdays. To celebrate, the couple decides to plow headfirst into marital crisis.
Paul’s indie record label is headed for bankruptcy. He’s also giving handouts to his mooching father (Albert Brooks). Debbie owns a clothing boutique and suspects one of her employees (Megan Fox) has stolen $12,000. These are the financial woes of a family living in a mansion in an affluent suburb of L.A, driving their children to their private schools in a Lexus. Their cute, wisecracking little kids are now foul-mouthed children who are creeping closer to adolescence
Amidst their money troubles, the couple isn’t so sure they love each other anymore. They hide their bad habits from each other (he’s evasive, she’s a nag). It’s not an unfamiliar scenario and yet these characters are so wholly unlikable and shrill that the whole film comes across as a little desperate.
It’s also a storyline that has been done before. The film covers universal themes, but those expecting a perceptive tale wrapped in Apatow’s humour may be left waiting, a long time. As some reviewers noted on Twitter: this Is 40 minutes Too Long.
The film is made up of seemingly disconnected vignettes — perhaps it’s Apatow’s way to wryly link the chaotic series of family life, or perhaps it’s just terrible filmmaking. Whatever the case, the film appears clunky and disjointed, never quite getting to the point (or plot).
In an effort to present a somewhat accurate portrayal of an almost-mid-life crisis, the characters reflect relatable life. But by being relevant, the characters also portray so many unlikable qualities that it’s hard to feel much pity for their personal issues.
If this is what Apatow’s grown up looks like, let’s stick to life lessons from 40 year old virgins.