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This is 40 (2012)

| December 19, 2012 | 0 Comments

You have to wonder if writer-director Judd Apatow has seen the sad state of romantic comedies and determined to make it better.  He succeeds where others fail.  His comedies like The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Forgetting Sara Marshall are remedies to all the recent limp, unfunny romantic comedies that are responsible for killing the genre.  His films are a breath of fresh air, they are raunchy and loaded with sex jokes, but they are also warm, human and very funny.  He has no contempt for his characters or the audience.

His latest film, This is 40, is a hysterically funny film that literally advertises itself as “A sort-of sequel to ‘Knocked-Up’.  Indeed it features the adventures of a married couple Peter (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), who occupied a small corner of that 2007 comedy and provided some of its best moments.  We could detect, in that film, that there was much more to Peter and Debbie then their small subplot had time to explore.  This is 40 expands their story and we get into their lives, learn what brings them together and the things that threaten to bring them apart.  Plus, to make a point, your enjoyment of this film will not be hindered if you haven’t seen Knocked Up.

This film is actually a lot better and funnier than Knocked Up.  If you’re familiar with Apatow’s style then you aren’t at all surprised by the opening sequence in which the couple shares a hot sexual interlude in a steamed-up shower before Debbie storms out upon learning that Peter’s sexual apparatus has been fueled with Viagra.  “I was just trying to go turbo for your birthday.” He says.  “I don’t want turbo”, she informs him, and thus their sexual problems are laid out for us in the cold light of day.  Their problems in the bedroom – or in this case the bathroom – seem to underline a host of other problems, not least of which is the fact that Debbie is pushing 40 and doesn’t want to admit it.  At her birthday party she defiantly insists that she is still only 38.  That later culminates in a wonderful back and forth with a nurse who is staring at her information on a clipboard while Debbie is in the middle of her pelvic exam.

Whether they like it or not, Peter and Debbie are pushing 40 and are dealing with money problems.  This may be the first comedy that deals with a couple in the midst of the post-economic crisis.  They are perfect models of the 21st century, they have every kind of electronic device and live in a house that they really can’t afford.  Peter owns a record label but doesn’t tell Debbie that it is hemorrhaging money.  His latest project involves an aging rock star who is past 60 who still has the chops, but who wants to buy him?  Meanwhile, Debbie’s dress shop is losing money because a large amount of cash has gone missing by either the passive Asian girl joy or raucous sexpot Desi (Megan Fox) who amazingly has suddenly acquired a high-priced apartment and a new car – the answer to that mystery isn’t what we expect.

Aggravating the situation are the presence of two budding daughters, Sadie, who is obsessed with “Lost” and Charlotte whose personality hasn’t quite slipped into cynicism but we sense her moving in that direction.  Debbie makes the suggestion that some life changes are in order, starting with a limitation on electronic devices.  Sadie’s outrage is comparable to a chimpanzee bereft of its tire swing.

Apatow is smart enough to keep the plot light.  He doesn’t overload us with plot developments but allows the everyday problems of the couple to provide the drama and the comedy.  Nothing here feels like it was set up to be a gag.  Even a hysterically funny moment in which Debbie catches Peter trying to examine something that might be a hemorrhoid with the use of a cell phone and a bathroom mirror somehow feels organic, not set-up.

Apatow is also wise not to turn the characters into caricatures.  There are at least a dozen supporting players here and each – per Apatow’s usual – is given an extra dimension.  There’s a wonderful, nomination-worthy, performance by Albert Brooks – a comic treasure – as Peter father, a man in his 60s who has recently fathered three triplet boys and observes that “The doctor said I’d never get my wife pregnant.  I was very unlucky . . . and now I have three beautiful children.”

If there is a weakness in the film, it may be that it runs on too long.  The screenplay nears comic perfection but there is no reason that this movie has to run on for over two hours.  It doesn’t have that much to say.  That limitation aside, this is an often hysterically funny movie that allows us to laugh at the characters and doesn’t give in to easy pratfalls.  The characters have an intelligence level that approximates the intelligence of the people in the audience, with moments that are perfectly observed.  It was refreshing, for example, to find that Debbie’s father, smart as he is, was as baffled by the final episode of “Lost” as the rest of us.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2012) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy, Uncategorized