Universal // 2012 // 137 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // April 1st, 2013
Welcome to middle age.
Did you like Knocked Up and wished that they would make a sequel. If so, you're in luck! Well, sort of. This is 40 is the semi-sequel to Judd Apatow's sophomore hit, bypassing most of the characters in that film and instead focusing on the secondary characters Pete and Debbie as they begrudgingly head "over the hill." This is 40 is now available on DVD and Blu-ray care of Universal Home Entertainment.
Pete (Paul Rudd, Role Models) and Debbie (Leslie Mann, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) are a married couple coming up to one of life's greatest milestones: middle age. Debbie is just turning forty and having a hard time accepting that her youthful looks are waning, while running a local jewelry store. Pete owns an indie record label that is going down the tubes fast, especially as he tries to give an aging musician (classic rocker Graham Parker playing himself) another shot at a new album. At home Pete and Debbie are raising 13-year-old Lost fanatic Sadie (Maude Apatow) and 8-year-old Charlotte (Iris Apatow), plus dealing with Pete's always-in-need father (Albert Brooks, Drive) and Debbie's distant father (John Lithgow, Dexter). As Debbie's birthday week roles by there will be new surprises and revelations that may shake the very foundation of Pete and Debbie's martial union.
This is 40 is the latest film from uber-comedy producer/director/writer Judd Apatow, whose influence on modern comedy cannot be overstated. From the cult TV series Freaks and Geeks to hits like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and smashes such as The 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, Apatow's fingerprints are seemingly everywhere. This is 40 is the director's fourth film, a rumination on moving forward in life and trying to keep it together as you reach middle age. Apatow's comedies have always skirted the line between ridiculously silly and poignant, with This is 40 being no exception. While far better than Apatow's previous effort (the excruciatingly unfunny Funny People), Apatow is starting to come off as a second rate James L. Brooks.
I have alternate title suggestions. How about This is Selfish? Or This is Cranky and Narcissistic? Or maybe just This is Not Realistic? One of my main gripes with the film is that it features caricatures, not characters. These are often irritable, self-centered people that do and say things that make you want to punch them in the face with a bowling ball. It was as if Apatow decided to take all the worst, clichéd traits of people who live in Los Angeles and inject them into this film. At times, it feels like they were trying to make a commercial for California so people WON'T come and visit.
With the exception of Paul Rudd, who gives a performance that is essentially Paul Rudd riffing on his surroundings, I found almost everyone in This is 40 to be unpleasant and rather insufferable. Leslie Mann's Debbie spends so much time complaining and crying about turning 40-years-old that you'd think she was in some alternate version of Logan's Run where anyone turning that age is shipped off and turned into Soylent Green. Even worse are the two children, played by Mann and Apatow's real life daughters, Maude and Iris Apatow. The two girls are screeching harpies, bratty to the point of mild nausea. At one point the oldest realizes she has nothing to wear in her closet and has a meltdown so immediate and disgusting that I actually wanted to turn the movie off. I started wondering if that was a conscious choice on the part of the director, or do kids in L.A. really react that way (and do parents think it's normal)? Either way, it was off-putting to say the least.
Improvisational comedy can be funny, but it doesn't easily translate to film, a medium that works best when jokes are constructed and honed to a tee. Characters in This is 40 often ramble on in search of a joke, as if the screenplay just said, "Eventually get to a funny one liner about menopause...and take your time." Some may really like this brand of comedy; for me it feels sloppy and jumbled, like having to bite three rotten apples until you get to a fresh one. I won't say I didn't laugh at all; there were moments that made me chuckle, many of them involving Albert Brooks as Pete's lecherous father who finds himself swamped with children he doesn't really want. Megan Fox (Transformers) shows up in a supporting role as one of Debbie's co-workers, but the actress seems to have an only rudimentary grasp on comedy. However, she looks hot, so that should make the male audience happy (and I'm not being sexist, since eye candy was exactly why she was added to the film).
I'm sure that below its comedic exterior, Apatow wants to make some 'really important' comment on growing older. If that was the case, it missed me. The moral I took away from this film was this: someone will always catch you playing on your iPad while you're sitting on the toilet and your kids will grow up to be obnoxious trolls. Second moral: even if your business is going down the drain, if you live in California, you'll still have a house that only multi-millionaires can afford. Third moral: everyone dreams of killing their spouse (which is just kind of weird).
Had Judd Apatow spent a little more time making his characters relatable (he doesn't seem to realize that 99% of the country doesn't work in movies or music) and less time on grasping for improv gold, This is 40 may have turned out to be something really special. As it stands, This is 40 is a middling, mildly amusing comedy that runs way too long and gives too little insight into growing old...especially gracefully.
This is 40 is presented in 2.40:1/1080p high definition widescreen, with a nearly flawless transfer. Colors and black levels are solid and pop nicely off the screen while the image retains a crystal clear look. I don't have any major complaints about this transfer; The is 40 looks great on Blu-ray! The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround in English. This audio mix is surprisingly engaging considering it's a very dialogue heavy comedy. There's a fair amount of rock and roll to be found here (including songs by the very non-fictional Graham Parker) and the dialogue, music, and effects are all distinguishable and clearly heard. Also included are DTS 5.1 mixes in French and Spanish, as well as French, Spanish, and English subtitles.
The bonus features on This is 40 include an audio commentary with writer/director Judd Apatow, almost an hour's worth (!) of deleted and extended scenes cut from the film, a fifty minute featurette on the making of the film ("The Making of This is 40"), a 45 minute audio interview with Apatow by Terry Gross, a few featurettes on the film's production ("Kids on the Loose," "Long Emotional Ride," "The Music," "This is Albert Brooks"), some alternate bits of dialogue ("Line-O-Rama & Brooks-O-Rama"), a gag reel, a few more puffy featurettes ("Biking with Barry," "Triumph the Insult Comic Dog"), a faux commercial featuring Jason Segal ("Bodies by Jason"), and a bonus DVD of the film with a digital copy.
This is 40 has some laughs, but they aren't as plentiful as one might expect from one of today's hottest comedy writers/directors/producers. The film isn't a total waste of time, but Judd Apatow has done (and no doubt will do) better.
For Apatow fanatics only.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (French)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 137 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Theatrical Version
* Deleted Scenes
* Fake Commercial
* Gag Reel
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy