Wednesday, January 2, 2013

This is disappointing.

Movie Review: This is 40

Director: Judd Apatow

Reviewed: 2 January 2013

jamesintexas rating--**

Judd Apatow's indulgent new film "This is 40" assembles an astonishing array of comedic actors: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Chris O'Dowd, Jason Segal, Albert Brooks, and Lena Dunham.  Despite the pedigree of the cast, the story collapses under its stars, meandering far from its central couple and struggling to sustain any sort of focus.  Mann and Rudd play Debbie and Pete, a couple last seen in Apatow's "Knocked Up," which used their chemistry well in small bits to contrast the central couple of Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl.  Here, Debbie and Pete are front and center, as are Maude and Iris Apatow as Sadie and Charlotte, the couple's daughters.  The film is concerned with a couple aging together, their relationship possibly changing, and the pressures of job, family, and life bearing down upon two people who love each other and simultaneously drive each other crazy.

The film plays loose and episodic with little governing the narrative besides a looming birthday party for Pete (Debbie does not want a birthday party) which serves the messy purpose of uniting multiple story arcs together into one bloated sequence.  The film is 134 minutes long.

Don't go looking for the Apatow of "The 40 Year Old Virgin" or even "Knocked Up" here.  "This is 40" more closely resembles the Apatow of "Funny People," the Adam Sandler-Seth Rogen-Leslie Mann film which was similarly uneven and bloated in length (146 minutes).  There are the ingredients of a funny film in here, but Apatow (or someone) must reign in his tendencies to throw so much at an audience.  There are stretches without laughter and multiple punchlines that miss the mark.  I repeat, there is a funny movie here, somewhere, in the struggle of a couple adjusting to entering their forties and in small, heartfelt scenes with their children.  I loved seeing Mann dance with her children or Rudd sneak cupcakes.  Similarly, more could have been done with winning trainer Jason Segal or record store employee Lena Dunham, given nearly nothing to do.

But amidst long artfully filmed bicycle rides, tone deaf financial problems (If you're struggling with the bills, might I suggest not catering a birthday party like it was a wedding, not driving a Lexus and a BMW, and not buying boxes of Crave cupcakes?), and a nonsensical subplot involving fraud, the movie distracts itself from its own premise.  Rudd and Mann can shine if given good writing, believable conflict, and time onscreen together.  Both impress at times in this film.  However, there are too many writer-heavy preachy moments that ring false in this film.  Maybe, despite how much it might hurt, removing the subplots of her trainer, his job, and both of their parents (floundering work by Albert Brooks and confusion from John Lithgow) could have streamlined this story and improved it.

There are laughs and moments of silliness.  I just think that everyone assembled can do better.  Judd Apatow has made four movies, two of them that work.  I am inclined to give him another chance.

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